Category Archives: monthly review

monthly review

December 2017 Monthly Review

December divided into three sections. First, the work period of early December, the eleven day awakening retreat, and about a vacation week spent back home for the holidays.

MAPLE

MAPLE continues to evolve with new residents, new trails, fundraising, and more. Early December is a blur. I continued to step back from daily operations to let other residents rise. A lot of the work was doing whatever was necessary from figuring out our budget to planning the January retreat.

I feel unclear what will happen next year with a fertile field of possibilities. I await to see which options shake out. I committed to staying through 2018 and likely beyond.

PSYCH / HEALTH

I can’t seem to keep a consistent, intensive workout schedule. I’m going to commit to at least two intensive weight training workouts each week using a mixture of Baye’s system with bodyweight and dumb bells. Other days, I’ve been practicing Qigong and Taichi and made plans with other residents to learn contact improv and other forms of Qigoing.

An old resident and great friend came for the December retreat. He told me that despite creating his dream life, it just wasn’t all that great and coming around to the necessity for deep awakening practice again. That really destroyed me since I often thought of him as my model for leaving the monastery and building a good life.

The main tension for me is accepting the fact that maybe I’m suited for monastic life and will be here for a long time. I still have these ingrained ideas that I’m not successful unless I have a good life partner and financial wealth. Yet, when I really work through that story, I always come back to doing intensive awakening practice anyway.

The retreat and time home afterwards really challenged and shifted attachments around anxiety for my parents, financial stability, and needing a romantic partner.

MEDITATION

The eleven day retreat was very intense. I don’t even know how to share about it.

I feel a call towards prioritizing awakening more this next year and I actually believe awakening is possible. Before, I scoffed at the idea of maintaining concentration 24/7 even during working hours. But, it seems possible and necessary now.

Highlights of the retreat include really questioning every thought and distraction that arose. If every pain and discomfort is really manufactured by me (at least the resistance to experience) then why? How? Who? Who’s doing it? Who’s resisting? Why? It’s like I was a puppet seeing my strings behind pulled by some invisible puppet master and questioning who is this master? How do I get free?

Also, I had this experience before, maybe a year ago, this type of full surrender where sensations of bliss overtake my body to the point of physical over stimulation and discomfort. It feels very powerful and purifying. When I’m actually with my experience and not distracting myself, there’s often this deep knot in my core. I think most sensitive people are familiar with this knot sensation. That knot is some part of myself resisting surrender. On the other side of the knot and tightness is bliss and surrender. It’s amazing how much my ego resists going into the letting go and how overwhelming the bliss is. Letting go feels like choosing to die. Soryu says the discomfort of the overwhelming bliss is just because we’re more adapted/used to pain than joy and so ostensibly I’ll get used to it eventually and won’t be so scared of the overwhelming joy.

Seung Sahn’s message about keep don’t know mind and go straight really made sense this retreat. This constant checking of whether things are going well or not, of doubting my experience is so constant. Just throwing all of that aside and reminding myself constantly to just keep doing a technique. If it’s going well then most likely at some point I’ll face extreme doubt and discomfort as things unravel and seems like this is the worse thing I should definitely not be doing. Yet, with enough time, the confusion and resistance subsides and something new emerges.

During sits, I was really questioning what comes before consciousness? In Buddhism, they talk about realizing what comes prior to consciousness. Consciousness arises from habit patterns. Habit patterns in turn arise based on ignorance. It was troubling to see how much my consciousness seemed to be motivated by scarcity and greed. Biggest hindrance by far on retreat was thinking about cryptocurrencies I’m sad to say. But, I kept wanting to figure out this core ignorance.

I don’t want to go into details here, but Soryu pushed those of us who stayed in the “Dragon” zendo to really choose and commit and go for it. I think it was the most powerful retreat for all of us that were in that room.

My long term solitary retreat likely will begin in February. One more month to settle affairs and get things in order. My parents were surprisingly very non-chalent about me entering three month retreat, it wasn’t even a one minute discussion.

CIRCLING

Circling took a bit of a backseat this past month. Due to time and space limitations, I didn’t do any in Burlington. We continued doing some sessions at the monastery among the residents.

Noticing my own discomfort and consistency when describing what I do with old friends or just doing it outside of a circling context. My own doubts and inadequacy and fears come up.

I’m going to be doing a 3rd year of Circling Europe SAS six month course in NYC, got invited to come and assist and practice with them. Looking forward to it. I originally said I couldn’t do it because it would conflict with the solo retreat and that was extremely hard for me to do. But turns out they’re open to me missing parts of the course so I can work around it.

MISC LIFE
Very happy to see my old friend and former resident Daniel come back for December retreat. We have a strong common understanding and interest that unfortunately I have found very very few others to share with. Looking forward to possible future collaboration with him.

CRYPTO
December was a wild ride up to record highs and then pulling back drastically. At one pint I had doubled my initial investment but it’s gone down a bit since then. I regret not having more patience to wait for the pull back as I invested more funds around the highs. Most or all of my capital is invested at this point. Using Bitcoin.tax I figured out my capital gains for the year and I don’t want to do anymore trading since it may push my tax bracket too high. I’m still very optimistic about crypto, it’ll be challenging to be gone for three months while it’s doing its thing. Hopefully it doesn’t crash while i’m gone. I invested a tiny bit into Ripple which has nearly grown 1000% from 20 cents to 2 dollars. Most of my money though is in the 50%-150% profit range unrealized gains.

I’ve spent the past week in Delaware at my parent’s house. I got to see a lot of my old friends, old boss, and such. Had a lot of phone calls primarily with old and new residents. Really like doing work/projects with people. In prior years, I would think i’m depressed but i just don’t get a kick out of eating out or small talk. I like learning and doing work with people. City life doesn’t really appeal to me in the way most people seem to do it in terms of going out to eat expensive, unhealthy food and chat about inane topics. I’m glad the friends I’ve cultivated, we have possibility for some depth. The highlight, maybe because it came last, was going to a Russian grocery store with friends for the first time in Philly. Something about the newness was fascinating to me. On the other hand, apart from training or special events like weddings, I don’t feel called to come back home again until next Christmas. Sorry to say my connections in VT at this point are stronger or more related than anywhere else.

JAN Plans
Doing a 2nd circling weekend at the monastery this coming Friday.

January Circling SAS NYC.

Then that’s it. Another week long retreat. Finishing and delegating out my responsibility work. Going into the cabin and trusting the rest to fall where they may.

monthly review

November 2017 Monthly Review

Last month, I said November is dedicated to consolidation after introducing a bunch of new changes in October. Specifically, I began new productivity methods/tools (habit tracking, note taking), began investing into cryptocurrencies, renewed my physical exercise regime, and more. For November, I wanted to focus on consistency and stability so that these weren’t just temporary projects. I did not want to add anything new for November. Fortunately, that’s exactly what happened: I made big strides in my major impact areas including meditation, circling, finances, and so on without adding anything new.

  • Monastic Academy
  • Psychology/Health
  • Meditation
  • Circling
  • Misc Life
  • December Plans

Monastic Academy for the Preservation of Life on Earth (MAPLE)
Our head teacher, Soryu Forall, returned after three months away. I was happy to present ourselves as a more mature, skilled, and cohesive team. I had taken major leadership while he was gone especially leading the past two retreats along with new renovations and other projects.

When I began at the monastery, the question on my mind was how to step into leadership more. Now, it seems my role is increasingly how can I mentor and support others into their own leadership. It kind of feels like being a parent. After the November retreat about two weeks ago, I made a deliberate decision and publicly told everyone that I’m trying to have the group take over operations more and not be involved in daily decision making unless it feels necessary. It’s nice and a key challenge for me to have the freedom to let go of that burdensome constant vigilance of watching and thinking about everything. It’s also a good exercise for me to trust the group and the process.

PSYCH / HEALTH
After the November retreat, I’m feeling much more at ease and fresh now. Before the retreat, I was holding a lot of tension around Soryu returning and nervous how he would feel about our past three months of work. I also held a lot of tension around how successful our Circling retreat went. It felt like the world was asking me to step out of the shadows of being a perpetual student and start being LARGE and BIG for the benefit of others. I have something to truly offer, to teach and lead others.. In the past, I’ve felt okay being the Manager, the Organizer, the Facilitator. But, now, it feels more and more that I have something to offer as the Leader, the Teacher. The Nov retreat really helped me accept this and let go of the tension around my old identities and new ones forming. Yet, an even larger calling came at the end of the retreat that I’ve been trying to digest. More on that in the next section, Meditation.

I still am not doing as much physical exercise as I would like. I think I need more positive and negative reinforcement to keep me going. I’ve been doing a lot more Qigoing since the retreat though. Food and nutrition are holding fine. Got some blood work recently where everything is looking overall good.

Feeling more at ease these days and feeling both extremes of emotions more, letting them arise and pass more easily. The frozen parts of my lower body are continually flowing more and more as I deepen in my meditation practice. It’s interesting to see how much holding tension energy is down there and feels like it’s holding against the incredible amount of energy and blissful pleasant feelings that come with flow.

MEDITATION
I noticed my meditation practice drastically improved in past month correlated with Soryu returning to teach us. While he was away, I had been focusing in my practice on relaxation but after he returned, I moved back to cultivating concentration. Now, I’m alternating between setting a foundation of relaxed body/breathe and then moving to deeper concentration and power. Relaxation of just following the breathe without any force or goal. Then incorporating more energy and deeper concentration into every single moment of the breathe so there’s no gaps in the focus. It’s a paradox how to hold powerful concentration with ease. In deep concentration and relaxation, there’s no longer some watching Manager who’s constantly checking to make sure I’m concentrated. Instead, there’s the natural concentration taking place on its own which is deeply relaxing to no longer have that Checking Manager constantly hanging over my awareness. That constant mental chatter is actually exhausting and distracting, ie not relaxing and not focused as much as a relaxed, steady attention is. Another word for Checking Manager would be nervous, anxious self-consciousness.

I had a particular shocking moment on the last day of retreat in the evening. It occurred right before the dharma talk. I was meditating and trying to find a way to bring my awareness down to my core. Feeling the usual resistance to keeping my concentration low in my body. And, this voice just said, “I keep looking and there’s nothing to find.” It’s a simple thing to realize and say yet that moment had an immediate and profound impact on me. My body got really tight, and my eyes went wide as I kept repeating this statement to myself in my head. I keep looking for “some thing” that will make everything okay. For example, if I could just keep my attention low then I would be able to properly meditate then I’d be happy and everything would be fine. That’s the subconscious tension happening as I’m trying to meditate or really grasping with attachment to anything. If I make a million dollars then I won’t have any of these worries or limitations and then everything will be fine. I keep looking for the right career, the right partner, the right beliefs, the right life purpose, the right whatever. Looking, looking, looking. Living my entire life looking and never actually just here. It was rather shocking to me and my body felt really tense but even so I walked outside in the freezing weather and nothing really bothered me. My mind was free. Usual aches and pains I knew were present but my attention didn’t feel like it was thrown around trying to go this way and then that way. Later in our final day expression period, I laughed a hearty laugh and expressed my constant looking and nothing to find. Absolutely nothing at all to find.

The following days hit me hard. More sensitive to the world. More aware of the deep patterns, habits, and suffering present everywhere. Seeing from the micro level to the global level how fixated and stuck so many habits that people go through are. The insecurity, the anxiety, the doubting, the cynicism, the ignorance, the hatred, all of it. It was physically painful to really see all of it. And continually aware just how difficult it is to practice constantly. To stay mindful in every action. To live and express from an aware mind is so challenging. It takes work Soryu says. Modern world with all its luxuries has often forgotten how to just do the hard, grunt work. So, I’m doing it. Maybe for the first time in a long long time I’m trying to actually practice throughout my day, valuing the meditation much more higher on my daily priorities. And shocked how often I just completely forget about it.

Big news is that at the end of the retreat, Soryu offered that I go into the solitary retreat cabin to have an awakening breakthrough. It’s just too difficult for most people to really gain insight in group retreat. It’s much more highly likely to breakthrough on solo retreat for extended time. I’ve been wavering back and forth on the decision. At this point, I feel needed to lead the group, circling is taking off, and my investments need monitoring. Yet, when I take the perspective of my whole life, it seems obvious that this opportunity is one I should take and take soon. Going into the cabin means trusting and relying on others, on letting go of my fears and attachments around financial safety, and clearly choosing this awakening path as the foremost priority, as the most important thing so that I can do everything else as an expression of compassion and service. The logistics have to get worked out. If possible, I plan to start sometime in January though.

CIRCLING

Circling continues to grow each month. We continue to practice long sessions together at the monastery. I also led two sessions in Burlington in November. I was amazed to find over twenty people showed up for one of the Burlington sessions. It was the first time I did a Saturday evening, I guess that’s the sweet spot. Half or more of the folks completely new or relatively new to the practice.

I’ve felt a growing sense of pride, terror, and awe that I’ve introduced directly circling to dozens of people who have then gone on to introduce circling to others. Some of them have gone on to become circling facilitator themselves. Thus, I’m indirectly responsible for hundreds of ppl coming into circling. It’s a strange feeling that I brought circling to the monastery and the majority of people in Vermont who’ve experienced circling likely learned from me. I’m like the God Father of VT Circling. I also received a nice message from a large circling group requesting me to help out at their larger circling course that I sadly can’t do because of the monastery and solitary retreat. It’s a dream come true. A year ago, the best life to me was to be a circling teacher. But awakening takes precedence even above my highest dreams.

We’re also running a 2nd Weekend Circling and Meditation Retreat in early January. Registration just opened up. Nervous to see how many people we get this time. Details to signup and learn more here.

I’m focused on training a core of facilitators, mostly residents and a few community members. I want them capable of running birthday circling and introducing circling themselves. It still feels a little weird for me to be teaching it to others when I still feel like a student myself. But I suppose the truly great hopefully never lose that student mindset.

I would still like to train as well but not sure when that might be. Probably not until the spring or summer at the earliest. Seems like my edge in circling now is more and more on training the next set of leaders and also being able to manage large groups particularly newcomers. It’s challenging to lead a night and entrust others to circle newcomers. Besides that, I am really good at entering deep presence and connection with others who are open to it. My challenge is trusting my intuitions to move and speak and act from deep surrender and not just get stuck in the nice feeling of deep, silent connection/presence. But, I’ve found that type of compassionate, non-judgmental deep presence with others is quite healing and amazing for me and others.

I really like my version of circling with its meditative and compassionate bent. I like that the groups I tend to work with also share this. It’s interesting it feels like a completely different branch of circling in some sense. A lot less relational reactivity and much more inner work via the mirror of others.

MISC LIFE

I’m scaling down my focus on extra activities including crypto, writing and learning. More and more of my focus moving towards meditation and circling.

Crytocurencies
This could become its own future section if I keep it up. After the monastery and circling, this topic has become an obsession of mine. Note, I am not a financial adviser. This entire market is still the Wild West, anything could happen. If you do invest here, do a lot of research first. And only put in money you won’t need for years and possibly lose all of it. If you don’t have an emergency fund then don’t invest in speculative assets like this.

After meditation and circling, cryptos have taken the most amount of my attention. Definitely most of my free time. It’s really hard to ignore with returns 60%+ in the past month. Consider Bitcoin, the #1 cryptocurrency, was $4,000 just two months ago. This past week it was worth $12,000! I’ve been investing in several different coins and sadly missed the initial growth of bitcoin. I regret I sold three bitcoins last year for $700 each. I had purchased them for around $700 each too so it was a wash. Today, they would be worth around $30K. I only put some of my savings into crypto though. I still have enough in savings that I could survive for several months if needed. I’m confident that the stock market is in a bubble right now and a major correction or even crash is pending in the next year or two. Likewise, cryptos will crash eventually but I believe they will rise from the ashes and grow even more over the next 2-5 years. I’m in a dilemma of the idea of going into retreat for three months without access to checking on all of these though and will need to consolidate and simplify my holdings in December/January before entering retreat. Kind of paradoxical, a modern monk investing in cryptocurrencies.

I feel a bit torn around the bitcoin network’s high environmental impact. I think it’s a problem that will get resolved eventually, but right now it’s a serious issue. It’s also clear that the crytocurrencies are also in a bubble stage right now where the speculative value is far beyond the current actual value of any of the digital currencies. Yet, you could have said the same thing about Amazon, Facebook, Linkedin, Tesla, and so on a decade ago. I’m also reading the book Digital Gold: Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires Trying to Reinvent Money. I wasn’t aware that so much of the smart hedgefund and VC investor money got involved back in 2013. I thought it was more like 2016 so I’m worried we’re getting towards the end of the bubble rather than the beginning. There’s an ethical question around investing in bubbles where there’s a winner and a loser. In the long run, it’s possible that everyone is a winner if the asset does appreciate over time. But, if it’s a hard crash and people sell low after buying high then you’re just gaming vulnerable people. I’m contemplating how much of my disposable savings to put into crypto but haven’t resolved it yet. It’s going to be a challenge being away for three months without access to my portfolio. Fortunately, I’ve never gone a year where I actually lost money in my investments although it’s arguable sometimes whether I would have made more money and definitely saved far more time keeping all my funds in boring index funds.

Back to Misc Life:

I need to settle all my accounts and prepare for long term retreat. Once I’m in retreat, I won’t have any outside contact including phone, email, and internet for months. It feels like I’m preparing for my death in some ways or that I’m moving away from this planet.

In terms of learning, I’ve been continuing with Sebastian Marshall productivity training including this past month’s of Monthly Review process. He offered a much more through process that I am trying to wrap my head around. Most of all, I like his idea of giving each month a theme and mantra. This December will be Prepare for Death.

DECEMBER PLANS

We have a 12 day retreat in mid-December which leaves only 15 days or so for everything else. In preparation for entering solitary retreat, I’m primarily focused on simplifying and winding down my affairs, delegating out my work responsibilities, and spending time with loved ones outside of the monastery. The theme for December will be preparing to enter the wilderness for my spiritual ripening.

Given my new solo retreat plans, I plan to spend some vacation time around the holidays to see family and friends.

More I wish I could say but some things don’t deserve to be on a public blog.

Circling will begin winding down for December and January, my primary focus has been on training the residents to be able to lead each other while Miles and I are gone.

After January, I will likely be out of contact including no more writing here.

monthly review

October 2017 Monthly Review

What a month!

Preparing to write this post, the amount of new projects and events from October shocked me. Before, I was a little disappointed with myself for not consistently staying with certain goals like exercise. But, this review helped me realize my slipping in some areas makes sense considering all the other successes and hard work. I just did a lot this month.

The biggest shift has been leveling up as a teacher, facilitator, and leader. In September, I was the retreat manager for a significant week long program with Shinzen Young. This October, I was the teacher and leader for several events. In addition, this month saw a renewal of ambitions and goals both old and new.

Reminder, this piece is part of a continuing series of monthly reviews where I reflect on what happened in the past thirty days and what to aim towards in the next thirty days. Not only as a way to keep track of my gains and keep me accountable but also as a way to stay focused and continue my public writing habit. This is the second post of the series.

This post will cover the usual areas:

  • Monastic Academy
  • Psychology/Health
  • Meditation
  • Circling
  • Misc Life
  • November Plans

Monastic Academy

Circling Retreat
I lead the first ever Circling & Meditation retreat. This was possibly the first event anywhere formally putting together circling and meditation in the same program. Each morning, we did a minimum of one hour of practice and silent breakfast to ground ourselves in our own experience before jumping into circling. We had a 3 day (FRI-SUN) component and then a week-long piece (SUN-FRI). About sixteen guests came for the weekend along with the nine residents. Then we had four guests throughout the week-long with the residents.

I was very pleased at how very well it all went. We began with some silent practice with ourselves and each other the first night. Then we expanded into dyads on the second morning and then dropped into birthday circles for the remainder of the weekend. Most of the people reported amazing insights, healing, and transformation.

The week-long was even more amazing and intense. We shed birthday circles and went straight for surrendered leadership style. All of the residents now are fully on board with circling and hungry for more. I’m almost startled at how different some folks are now.

I’m also encouraged that we have an offering that attracts a crowd at minimum marketing cost and not reliant on our head teacher or outside facilitators. One resident remarked that it has great potential to help teams and groups “gel” or develop deep team cohesion based on mutual care. We are in a unique position to do this since we’re the only residential, practicing team that does circling together regardless of whether we want to or not.

One thing I was particularly happy for this retreat that was unlike any previous circling was that all the residents with our meditation background were very interested in exploring how eye gazing can be used to supercharge our meditation and enter deep states of concentration, clarity, and equanimity. Using our meetings as an opportunity to get awakened.

I also saw areas I can still grow in circling. Particularly in staying in the intensity with another person on an equal, vulnerable level on a sort of energetic level where I don’t understand what’s happening. I also realized that my voice and attitude carried the facilitator voice too much and repeatedly checked whether I was coming from a leader attitude. A few times, I prefaced my shares, “I’m not speaking as a facilitator here, I just don’t like this.”

The residents are going to explore expanding the time we practice circling at the Academy along with testing out more offerings for the public.

Sunday Sit Talk

Earlier in the month, before the circling retreat, I led the Sunday sit talk after facilitating a four hour circling session. I felt extremely tired and yet lead one of my best talks with everyone thanking me afterwards. My talk covered my experience of doing my first solo retreat and the lessons I learned including starting over and trusting the process to do the work below and beyond my understanding. I lead two guided sessions with one meditation on cultivating relaxation and concentration in the body and another on relational practice dyads of letting go and staying relaxed with another person. The Q&A was great, and one community member commented that our training is perfect preparation for marriage aka Monastic Academy teaches deep meditation, leadership development, and marriage training! Audio recording of the talk will be available soon.

Misc

A lot is happening at the Academy. We have been on-boarding a new trial resident this past month with two more joining in November. We continue renovations for the main building. Soryu is returning from his long training period and very excited/nervous to see what happens. And much more.

Psychology/Healing

Last month, I really dove into studying C-PTSD and trauma. Since then, I’ve slowed down and got wrapped up in other work. But, I definitely have been seeing the relational trauma play out in my mind, emotions, and body. It was particularly useful in circling to notice my lifelong relational broken patterns playing out and not forcing them to leave and also not buying into them. A lot of fear of abandonment, distrust, and fear of disappointment came up. Noticing how I react to all of it by withdrawing and getting resentment and angry or depressed and low energy.

Ever since the last retreat, I’ve been noticing the subtle feelings of freezing and tension in my lower body particularly around my abdomen, groin, and upper legs. Whereas, in the past year, this tension often felt like a big block of tightness, it’s almost always accessible now as a more subtle, open, and constantly changing phenomenon. It drops occasionally in deep relaxation or deep connection with others. But, it’s startling to see just how much I’m tightened up and living in what I perceive to be fear and doubt so much of the time.

Another insight I gleaned was just how much I hesitate away from getting my hopes up too high in fear of getting disappointed. When everyone else gets super excited about something, I tend to pump the brakes a little bit. I’m uncomfortable around excitement and dreams of the future without clear groundwork. I’m not an optimistic dreamer it turns out. I want to work on this.

Most of all, noticing whether I’m fully experiencing my feelings or staying at a distance in thoughts analyzing/watching my feelings. None of this is new territory but it’s much more clear and present as an option to drop into.

Meditation

Solo Retreat

I did my own first ever 5 day solo retreat in our solo cabin early October. I went into it thinking I would really breakthrough but immediately revised my goals to just making it through the five days. There was a ton of distractions within me and took a long time to build any momentum. I changed my practice from intensive concentration on breathe towards simply feeling relaxation in my body and emphasizing the relaxation and concentration loop. After the retreat, I noticed a lot more joy in connection with others. I cover the details in the Sunday sit talk which will be available soon.

These days, I’ve been focusing a lot more on relaxation rather than concentration. I’m not sure yet if it’s just plain laziness. But, I seem to concentrate inward to the point that I lose consciousness often and easily and yet my body is completely solid and not moving. So, it’s not exactly sleep but has that relaxed easy quality but lacks my usual concentration/clarity. Excited to have Soryu back to give me feedback.

Circling

Big month for circling. I already covered co-leading the week long retreat with my fellow resident Miles. I also did two long sessions in Burlington which were both really great. I’m looking forward to finally working with others to build out the Vermont community to have more regular sessions.

I’m really good at providing a safe, supported grounded space. I had three or more big breakthroughs with people holding space. I’m weak though on my edge of following my intuition when I’m worried it’ll be received poorly especially when it contains an edge of challenging people. Particularly in the non-verbal energetic/physical type meetings. But I’m working on it. I’ve gotten a lot of confidence and trust that the circling process just works and I know how to tap into it.

I’m contemplating more training for next year, possibly Avalon week long.

Misc Life

I read four or more books this month including Little Women, The Goal, It’s Not Luck, and An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth.

Little Women was written in the 1860s yet it’s surprisingly and also depressingly still relevant in terms of feminist qualities. What struck me the most was the character/moral building part of the story. Here was a story where hard manual labor was seen as honorable, parents were respected and loved, and family meant everything. It’s a real change from this century’s cynical works like Game of Thrones. It felt much more useful and inspiring to live a better life.

The Goal and It’s Not Luck are both business/operations books written in novel form. They tell the basic Theory of Constraints. Among the two of the best business/operations books I’ve ever read and still digesting how to integrate them into how I operate.

An Astronaut’s Guide was similar to Little Women in the building positive character and living a good life. There were a lot of gems in there like aiming to be a zero when you first join a team/group/company (don’t cause any problems, don’t try to prove your worth so quickly, just shut up and listen and help where you can).

I’ve also been exploring cryptocurrency a lot this past month. I’m disappointed I didn’t follow my hunch years ago to invest heavily in bitcoin and regretting it now. I think there’s still a huge, huge potential here and planning to invest into it. I’m still on the initial heavy research phase though. It would be very easy to lose all my money if it’s not done well.

I’ve been exercising a lot more this past month although I fell off this past week. It really came up for me as a goal after the solo retreat. I’m doing some mixture of HIIT sprinting on the treadmill, intensive body weight training based on Drew Baye’s system, and similarly with dumbbells. Also bought a bunch of tools like measuring tape and calibers to take body measurements since weight alone seems to be a very inaccurate gauge. I don’t have a good system worked out for the exercise yet which has plagued me for years. But, it’s a second order priority for me these next few months. I like HIIT and Drew’s system because they rely on short intensive workouts that are super simple and less likely to get injured.

Writing isn’t going too well, I dropped off on daily writing. I have a few in the pipeline including a piece on gratitude for negative life experiences. I’m thinking about writing on cryptocurrency more too. I made a new commitment to write at least one sentence/day instead.

My friend Michael did an interview with me. We go over a lot of meditation, body practices, and philosophy. We’re both geeks when it comes to high level thinking, meditation, and body stuff.

I’ve been jazzed getting back into Productivity & Accountability. I’m using a lot of Sebastian Marshall‘s tools like WorkCycles and Lights Spreadsheet for deep focused work and habit tracking respectively. I’ve been keeping track of my personal weekly work and exercises in Evernote. I spent this past weekend examining my workflow and project management. Too early to say any of the new stuff will stick. Read through Plaintext Productivity. Don’t agree with the using a plain text file for todo list (mainly the lack of offline syncing between devices), but I like his suggestions on Markdown for writing drafts and general file structure. Using RememberTheMilk instead for my daily priority ToDo and like the idea of always having a prioritized list of what I’m doing now and what I’m doing next. Still trying to grapple how to best use Evernote for projects though.

November Plans

Today is November 4th. I’m currently in my parent’s home finishing this post up. The month feels relatively short with the holidays coming.

My plan for this month is to primarily consolidate all the new changes and make them consistent and stable. Exercise, writing, habit tracking, evolving the productivity system, moving circling to the next level for this next year, researching more into crypto and so on.

monthly review

September 2017 Monthly Review

Each month, I am doing a public monthly review and preview for the next month as part of my writing commitment. It’s not quite clear yet how these reviews will help with my writing skill. At least, they serve as an accountability review. I’m writing this one a bit in haste, you’ll see why in the October plans section. So, let’s map out the categories for this month:

  • Monastic Academy: my job, home, and practice community. Reflecting back on big pieces of the past month: lessons, insights, and challenges.
  • Psychology/Healing: challenges and changes over my self healing and psychology.
  • Meditation: how’s my meditation going?
  • Circling: how’s circling going? Both as a student and teacher.
  • Misc Life: anything else that doesn’t fit above.
  • October Plans: how’s October looking?

MONASTIC ACADEMY

Vision Quest – We finished our vision quest early September with our guide Darren. This was my 2nd vision quest. It was a really great experience with perfect weather. The quest involves several pieces including building a sweat lodge, lodging with the other questers, and questing out in the woods for several days without food or shelter (get a tarp and sleeping bag). The primary medicine I got from the quest was that I want more joy in my life and specifically my relationship to work to be more joyous.  I fantasized about food and wanting to bake bread and cook good food. After the quest, I baked my first two loaves of bread ever! At the end of the quest, I made a commitment to revisit the forest each week to stay in connection. So far, I’ve kept the promise and it’s been a good source of physical and mental refuge.

Renovations – The building and property we purchased for the Monastic Academy is amazing and beautiful however it’s not suited for year round residence. We’ve begun doing needed renovations to the building including a new pantry room and winterizing the building. Still a lot to do. It’s interesting to learn how to call up contractors, figure out bids, and navigate this whole project. I really didn’t want to be the lead person on this but neither did anyone else.

Coworker – We hosted a month long coworker in September, a developer from Silicon Valley. He had a great time, and interesting to see a lot of his positive experiences were learning tangential things from residents like proper posture. It’s good to know that our community and product does really work. It’s just a tougher sell to have people physically come here for extended amounts of time.

Shinzen Retreat – We hosted our first week long retreat with Shinzen Young. I was nominated as the retreat manager months ago. It was the biggest retreat we’ve ever run, at least as far back as I’ve been a resident. Including the residents and teachers, we had about 30 folks. I had a lot of concern and worry working up to this week. After initial bumpy day of minor tweaks, everything ran really smoothly. Guests had life changing moments, Shinzen had a great time, and no emergencies came up. It’s nice to have the confidence to know I can and have run a great retreat from scratch. Of course, I had a lot of leadership and help from my fellow residents too.

PSYCHOLOGY/HEALING

I joined the monastery partly to work on intimate relationships. My family growing up was dysfunctional, and I’ve found all my relationships in my life lacking in some intimacy regard. I felt a deep loneliness and separation. I felt that when times got tough that people including myself would eject and leave the relationship. Even the dharma communities I was part of didn’t go into the discomfort territory. I thought a monastery would be a place where people were committed. They couldn’t and wouldn’t just leave when it become tough. I was right.

Recently, I stumbled upon this thing called Complex PTSD. Pete Walker has the best site on the topic. “Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD; also known as complex trauma disorder) is a psychological disorder thought to occur as a result of repetitive, prolonged trauma involving harm or abandonment by a caregiver or other interpersonal relationships with an uneven power dynamic” (Wikipedia).

My parents, bless their hearts that they did the best they could do, neglected my brother and me a lot. Whatever traumas they suffered in their life carried over to us. I was never physically abused. I always had enough food to eat, clothes on my back, and a roof over my head. But I never got enough emotional sustenance. My family argued a lot as far back as I can remember. Coupled with my brother who was my best and only friend for a long time leaving for college when I was 12 or 13 and being often the bullied Asian kid, it was a rough childhood.

I can see a lot of symptoms of CPTSD in me. The denial and minimization of my negative feelings. The inner critic of perfectionism and unworthiness along with the outer critic of judging others failing to do their part. The emotional flashbacks back to knotted tense stomach around relationships. Viewing intimacy and relationship as dangerous rather than nourishing.  The constant hypervigilance and fear of intense engagement with others assuming it will go poorly.

For the past year or more, I’ve often felt this stuckness, this tension, ball of trauma in my gut, perhaps my small intestine. It can relax sometimes when I grieve or do a lot of meditation, or fall asleep. But it’s often present especially it seems if I’m nervous or anxious. Although it getting better, it’s still a mess.

There’s a lot to say here. I’ve been working on it both in my meditation practice and doing therapy.

MEDITATION

Always feels like a struggle between worrying about monastery responsibilities and letting it all go to focus on awakening meditation. Practice has been in somewhat shambles. Haven’t done a real meditation retreat since July. I had a lot of momentum and dedication in July that I’m hoping to work back towards. At least, I know now it’s just mundane working the concentration back up. I know how to do it, I just need to focus and have time to do it.

CIRCLING

I’m continuing to lead a monthly circling event in Burlington and our weekly night at the Monastery. I’ve been heartened to see that the other residents are starting to lead their own birthday circles and do it well. When I first brought relational practices like circling to the monastery, I felt a lot of resistance from others and didn’t feel very confident. It’s nice to see that circling is now just a part of the culture here and people often want to do it more than me.

It’s funny to see this weakness of mine in terms of relationship has been continually getting exercised probably for the last decade starting in college. It’s becoming my strength and what I’m most interested in helping others and myself with even more so than meditation or business or technology. I have qualms about how far I can lead though with my intimacy challenges and trauma still present.

MISC LIFE

Nothing for now given time constraints.

OCTOBER PLANS

So, busy October!

First, I’m doing a solo retreat starting tonight! Since I was the retreat manager at the last retreat, I’m making up for it by going into the cabin for several days. I’ve never done a solo retreat ever before! So, I’m very excited and a little worried about how that will go.

I’ve got several circling events planned this month including a week-long meditation and circling retreat at the monastery!

monthly review

2017 : Writing Commitment Again

I have wanted to be a good non-fiction writer since I was 21.  I don’t enjoy the writing process itself. Nor do I aspire to reach the heights of storytelling like Malcolm Gladwell or Michael Lewis. Rather, I want to improve my clarity and expression of ideas. These days the ability to write down one’s ideas is a standout and rare skill. As Jordan Peterson said, “The primary reason to write an essay is so that the writer can formulate and organize an informed, coherent and sophisticated set of ideas about something important.“ I have a lot of ideas I want to share and writing is a powerful vehicle for spreading ideas.

I have a new plan to master writing and publishing after a year of silence. Last year, I set a 30 day writing challenge to publish a daily new post. It was really challenging, but I did it. I was frustrated though that I found myself often writing and revising my posts in 30 minutes or less. It was not very sustainable. This  year, I aim to work smart to overcome the past limitations with an emphasis on improving my process of writing.

LIMITATIONS

Time and energy are a limited resource at the monastery. My days are regimented from 4:30 AM to 9 PM with a two and half hour break in the afternoon. Often, I find myself working during those times too. By the time, I begin writing in the afternoon, I’m drained from already spending ten hours of doing my best work.

GOAL

I plan to do more writing starting in October. This is my second October writing challenge. First, I am going to start slow and gradually do more. I’m aiming for quality over quantity. I’ll start by committing to a monthly review of how the past month went and what the next month holds. I’ll track a few areas including the Monastic Academy, meditation, circling, general life attitude/psychology shifts, progression on habits/commitments, and so on. I haven’t finalized the categories. I feel cautious about how much I want to share publicly. What’s off limits? Is it okay to name other people? It’s a continuous not knowing. Eventually, I want to include long-form essays as well as more open, vulnerable posts that aren’t polished. A mixture between essays and more journal-like entries.

HOW & TOOLS

I’m following a cue from Sebastian Marshall and using the classic writing system method outlined in Extreme Productivity of separating the writing process into brainstorm, categorizing, outline, writing, editing, and publishing. I’ll also utilize Jordan Peterson’s template on writing essays.

To counteract the low energy of afternoon free time, I’ve decided to automatically go take a 20 minute nap at the very beginning of free time no matter what. I use AutoHotKey Windows program to automate setting up a WorkCycle: it launches productivity music, sets a 25 minute counter, and opens my work tracking spreadsheet. I also use ColdTurkey Writer for brainstorming when I want to write minimum 700 words and can’t do anything else.

Finally, I’m looking for writing accountability feedback partners, clear rewards/celebration for success, and clear penalties for failure. Last year, committing to donate money to my least favorite politician always motivated me enough to publish something. That was a good stick approach. But I want to add a carrot, a reason to look forward to publishing these posts. I’m also looking for more accountability and feedback partners.

So, I’ll publish a monthly review soon reviewing September and commit to doing that until at least January. Then, I’ll begin writing more regular well written pieces.

I encourage you to follow me on my writing journey and contemplate writing more as well.