Oct 2016 30 Day Writing Challenge

Taking Care of Things, Self-Care, and Care from Others

I’ve been writing a lot about the leadership position of Operations I have at the monastic academy.

For the most part, it’s been good. It’s a role I am good at and have done in my past jobs. But it has also started wearing me down as it has countless past residents before me.

Coming into Austin today for a circling intensive weekend, I was still carrying that bone tiring weariness in me. Dread and exhaustion around feeling like Atlas upholding everything.

Make sure the sits go well.
Make sure the buildings are good.
Make sure everyone is training.
Make sure chores are done well.
Make sure everyone has something to do.
Make sure to give feedback so people can learn and grow.

And, many, many more things.

The tasks themselves aren’t difficult. But, it’s when I get stuck on something and don’t take action. I procrastinate in uncertainty not wanting to hurt anyone or thinking I don’t want to do this. In reality a lot of times, it’s I know deep down exactly what the action I should take is but I don’t know what the result is so I spend more time thinking about it and it starts becoming a weight at that point.

Of course, I could just delegate more. If I was honest, a part of the reason why I like to be involved so much is because it makes me feel important. It makes me feel valuable. It boosts my ego to say I’m involved in marketing, sales, operations, recruitment, leading circling nights, leading the sits, and so on. And, also because I trust myself in these areas in ways that are harder for me to trust others to do well in them. There are definitely areas I know I’m weak. But, relatively speaking, I feel strong in those areas. And there’s some pride at being able to do all these things and do them well.

But, over time, it’s tiring.

Rather than just doing the action or taking care of myself, I can start rationalizing that surrender and letting go mean to stop complaining and just bear the burden. To throw myself into each task fully and thereby unleash great energy. These are the thoughts in my head.

But, the truth is that I’m just tired. Even on my day off I’m doing work.

Tonight, I spontaneously got birthday circled and once again sobbed again as I have every time I’m circled by several people.

I had a sense before even it started that might happen. I had underlying layers of frustration, anger, and grief that I wasn’t feeling. I didn’t want to feel.

But, what really connected it all together was the word “still”.

It feels like I often have to take care of everyone else to be valuable. To provide space and service to others to receive love and support back. But I don’t get to ever fully be taken care of. I never get to have a safety net. Or, more accurately, I don’t trust any if they are available.

And growing up, I had to become an adult real fast as a child. My parents were very busy just surviving and I had to take care of myself and others. And that pattern has continued. I still have to take care of them now and can’t or don’t ask/receive care from them.

It feels so burdensome and exhausting after a while.

I still know that if I throw myself in entirely into each moment, into each relationship without restraint then this isn’t a burden. But, my ego gets involved and carries it. Every second I’m not with my experience fully, the burden grows.

And, this frustration and exhaustion at others and myself that grew over the last few days based on distrust and doubt whether we and I can handle it. Whether we will reach our goals. Whether we can hold the problems we have and actually grow from them. I’ve been dreading really confronting that. But, I got my release tonight. Got a good cry. And it feels a lot lighter and possible to at least try now.

And I’m noticing I need more ways to ask for and receive care from others. It’s hard for me to trust care from others. Trust it won’t result in abandonment or damage. I’m pretty good at self-care. I’m great at recognizing and clearing away obstacles within me with meditation and inquiry. But it’s very hard to get it from others.


I’m in Austin, TX where it’s currently 11:30 PM so I’m going to count this as a valid post for the day. Been traveling most of the day and began circling training tonight so this was a close one.

Oct 2016 30 Day Writing Challenge

Prevent trouble before it arises.

What is rooted is easy to nourish.
What is recent is easy to correct.
What is brittle is easy to break.
What is small is easy to scatter.
Prevent trouble before it arises.
Put things in order before they exist.
The giant pine tree
grows from a tiny sprout.
The journey of a thousand miles
starts from beneath your feet.
Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
Forcing a project to completion,
you ruin what was almost ripe.
Therefore the Master takes action
by letting things take their course.
He remains as calm
at the end as at the beginning.
He has nothing,
thus has nothing to lose.
What he desires is non-desire;
what he learns is to unlearn.
He simply reminds people
of who they have always been.
He cares about nothing but the Tao.
Thus he can care for all things.

DDJ Chpt 64

When you are by yourself, it’s not such a big deal to allow small things slip by. A dirty dish here, an email not sent over there. But, those tiny things compound over time. And, even more so, things escalate when you share a space with others, when you’re a part of a team.

The easiest thing is to just put in the tiny extra effort to make sure things are correct from the beginning.

Once you make a mistake and let things get messy, they only escalate. Then others have to double check your work. Then it’s 3x of work.

1) The original work of doing the task.

2) The “manager” having to double check and correct the incorrect task.

3) The “manager” having to give feedback back to the original person.

Of course, most times there’s actually even more time and energy lost. Because, often we go under the safe assumption that the work will be done well. So, it’s only later once the problem has become a huge problem that we notice the mistakes. Then it’s even harder to fix and that person’s bad habit has been established.

It’s far more important and easier to focus in the beginning to make sure everything is correct. With that firm foundation and stable base then you can build something wonderful.

Oct 2016 30 Day Writing Challenge


Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings,
but contemplate their return.

Each separate being in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to the source is serenity.

If you don’t realize the source,
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
disinterested, amused,
kindhearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready.
Dao De Jing Chapter 16

I’ve interviewed dozens of people applying for the Monastic Academy. In each call, I go over our informal system of constant, honest feedback. Below, is a long form example of a phone call I might have. It’s much more through and detailed than I normally do. It’s on my mind since we have so many new residents joining us, and I have the discipline role to give the most strict feedback. I’ve probably been involved in or discussed feedback discussions at least ten times in the past week.

Hypothetical Call:

Me: “So, there’s a few items I want to check with you. First, we give each other constant feedback. Sometimes, in the monastic setting, the feedback can be very direct. It’s not a discussion, it’s just a correction.

For many new residents, including when me when I started off, this can be really disorienting. Why is this person being so mean? We shift from roommates to practice friends to coworkers in the same day. Usually, these are different people in our lives.

Often, in “polite” society, when you receive this kind of sharp feedback, there’s anger and violence behind the words. But, here, we are just holding you to your highest potential, not one ounce more and not one ounce less. We’re learning how to be assertive without being violent.

We’re having those honest conversations and feedback that roommates, coworkers, and family tip toe around. I know I lived in a lot of houses with wonderful roommates. But, we wouldn’t address underlying tensions like cleaning up your own dishes, and that would cause huge problems down the road. Or, if someone is learning a new skill and doesn’t receive corrections, they’ll acquire bad habits.

Feedback is healthy and good if it’s done without violence. And, we aren’t perfect. We’re still learning. We’re training and learning how to do it with each other. So, we forgive each other and let us the room to learn. Our egos so much want protection, safety, and comfort. We want to believe there’s some perfect system we just need to implement and then everything will be okay. But, that’s not how it really works.

If you don’t give feedback to someone then they’re just left with their perception of things and will continue their bad behavior and habits. Often, we’re scared to give them feedback but it’s actually selfish to hold back a lot of times. Especially spiritual people who tend to care too much that they tolerate being taken advantage of. For example, I don’t want to give feedback because then they’ll be angry at me. Or I might find out I’m actually wrong. Or I don’t want to deal with their reactive emotions. All of that is reasonable. But it’s selfish too if you’re committing to a monastery to transcend and transform ourselves.

And another pattern is witnessing someone else getting hard feedback and then tightening up. The feedback isn’t even directed at you, but you react. The actually receiving person isn’t even bothered, might even be grateful. Know that a lot of times, the feedback is calibrated to the person. I don’t know if everyone does this but I do. Some people I’ve known for over a year, and I know they can handle and want the direct feedback. I don’t do that immediately with new people. Just notice if, like me in the beginning, most of your fears and doubts are around watching others get feedback yet all the feedback you receive is mild.

Finally, ultimately, this is a spiritual path. We aren’t here to master Non-violent Communication or never feel uncomfortable. We run towards discomfort to get past our limitations.

We’re here to train so that we realize that existing nature of unconditional confidence and trust within us that no one or no thing can touch. Not death, not the cold, and definitely not someone’s feedback.

And we come here to become amazing leaders capable of tackling the deepest economic, social, political, and environment injustices in whatever form that shows up for us. The world doesn’t play nice, it doesn’t care about our emotions. We leave our homes and commit to training here so we can be real, so we can show the world a different way of living by our example.

Of course, we care about doing better. Of course, we want better communication. But, we’ve been doing this for years, you aren’t the first one to come up with this.

So, just know you’ll likely be activated by the feedback you see and receive when you first start here. If you witness or receive violence in any shape or form then definitely alert someone. I’m here for you. But, so far in my experience, it’s always just been me overreacting from some deep pattern getting triggered.

Does that make sense?”

At that point, most people say that sounds beautiful and inspiring. I imagine most people think of all the relationships where feedback and communication wasn’t direct, wasn’t open. Always filtered and limited and how many lost opportunities and connections that caused. And, here, we do it for real to whatever extent we are capable and willing to do it.

Oct 2016 30 Day Writing Challenge

Path of Mastery Goes Beyond Anxiety & Laziness

Some people get anxious. Some people are lazy.

Both type of people are self-centered.

Falling into anxiety, panic, and worry is an overreaction that things are and/or will be terrible for me. For example, I might be talking to an impressive figure that I want to befriend and get overly cautious and self-conscious about saying the right thing.

Falling into laziness and complacency is not wanting to face reality and choosing to instead live in ignornace as long as possible. It’s putting my head in the sand because I doubt my ability to meet reality and what’s needed. Or, another example, I’m concerned about making a mistake so I would rather not really try so that when and if I fail, I can blame the laziness rather than myself.

As Operations person, my job is often giving feedback to others regarding deviating from the rules or generally performing poorly. Some people can jump into self-shame and panic. Others can jump into laziness and pretend indifference. Most people do both. I definitely do.

But, in both cases, they are both selfish. Both about me.

In most disciplines like chess, meditation, martial arts, painting, science, copywriting, and more, you begin by learning the fundamentals. You begin by learning the forms. You begin by mastering everything that the best masters of the past have done. You master it by copying them, by absorbing their way of seeing things first. It’s only after you have properly mastered what’s already known that you’re trustworthy to do something new, do something different. It’s only through limitation and discipline can you arrive at genunely effective and creative new ways of doing things.

This isn’t how US American society functions. We think that young 20 something year-olds can disrupt entire industries and therefore we shouldn’t have to go through the hard work of actually learning the old ways of doing things. We want to just jump to the end where we’re a child prodigy master. But, what you fail to notice, is that most of those whiz kids like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and so on actually spent the majority of their lives starting as a kid developing and mastering the necessary skills and experience to flourish later on.

And you learn the path of mastery by not being anxious nor lazy. By focusing on the discipline rather than “how I’m doing at this discipline”. By starting each day, each task with the question, “what’s the most important thing needed right now to advance on this path?” That’s very different from our default programming of, “what’s the most comfortable thing to do right now?” or “what do I most want to do right now?”

And it gets super easy when it’s no longer about you. When what you most want to do right now is the same thing as what’s most needed right now.

Oct 2016 30 Day Writing Challenge

Unconditional Trust and Confidence

In the past few months, I’ve a significant shift in my being. It shows up in my leadership, my actions, and my meditation practice. A general sense of calm and relaxation.

Particularly, my September retreat was very powerful where I was got sick in the beginning and powered through each day until it no longer bothered me by day 5.

Reflecting on my leadership roles lately, I joked with a friend that I feel at ease with leading because I just don’t care. I do care. But, I’m much better at not taking things personally. Other people’s behavior doesn’t have to be an immediate reflection of me, my value, or my ego. I care a lot. But, I’m not identifying with things as me.

When talking to potenital residents, I use a term that my teacher Soryu once mentioned. Here, we train to truly tap into that unconditional trust and confidence that’s always available right here, right now. No matter the outcome of anything that happens, no matter what feedback comes my way, I know it’s possible to not take it personally, to not lose my trust, to not become insecure.

Each moment, just flowing into the next one. New situation, new direction, new action. How do I serve, how do I fit into this new situation?

Don’t let myself get in the way. Don’t insert myself into things that have nothing to do with me.

It’s clear seeing my ego insert itself into situations and the rampant, endless thinking and suffering that comes from that. All of it underpined and fueled by some base level insecurity.

The deeper I go into this practice of focus, love, and surrender, the more I see the burdens each of us carry around. All of us were wounded at some points in our lives. Maybe as a child when we were defenseless to do anything about it. Unable to know how to cope or comprehend those pains. But, as adults, we keep sustaining and feeding those burdens, those pains. Some base level of insecurity, distrust, and fear. We do that. Not the world. We simply see the world through the lens of that insecurity, that wound. But, it’s a choice.

To choose to let it go. To die. To no longer be the person defined by that pain, that wound, that suffering, that distrust, that disconnection. To die and be born anew like a brand new baby. To see the world and myself anew.

This is unconditional love. This is unconditional surrender. This is unconditional trust and confidence that cannot ever be taken from you by anyone or anything. This is the supreme spiritual attainment and achievement that is no-achievement, no-attainment. This is why spiritual heroes can move entire peoples and the tide of history to a higher truth and love.

This is being with life without inserting myself into it every single moment. Just like a dance where the less self-conscious I am, the more I can dance freely and naturally.

Take the leap.