30 Day Writing Challenge Complete

With this post, I’m done my October challenge of daily writing.

First, I’m happy to say that I did it! I didn’t miss a single day. I set a goal on one of my busiest months and completed it. Despite having a week long retreat, a weekend retreat, and a weekend circling immersion, I was able to pop them all out. Not to mention only having two hours of free time in the monastery. Towards the end, I was popping these out in thirty minutes or less. It’s interesting to see that a lot of my daily conversations turned out to be great writing material.

For constructive feedback, I would say my writing quality was all over the place. I definitely didn’t edit and polish my posts to a great quality. Especially towards the end, I only checked for obvious spelling mistakes and otherwise just did stream of consciousness typing. I’m not proud of the quality at all. But I do think each post has a real gem, but it could be much more refined.

There’s a lot of topics I didn’t cover. I wanted to write a lot more about my past experiences including finishing up my RV travels, living in Boston, circling, Mondo Zen, and more. But I felt I couldn’t do them justice in the time I had.

Going forward, I still want to continue writing but definitely not on a daily basis. For now, I’m taking a break at least for a few days.

I also would like to go back to some of my posts this month and rework them to flow better.

If you’ve enjoyed any of this month, please do let me know. It makes a huge difference.

Mirroring and Empathy

I’m finishing my last day of the circling intensive in Austin. I’ve been contemplating empathy.

A lot of times in circling, there’s a blurring distinction that happens between what one person is feeling and what I’m feeling. What the group is sensing and what I’m sensing. How much of it is a projection, how much of it is real? It’s hard to say, maybe impossible.

When someone is going through something it’s possible to tune into them like a radio station. My mirror neurons take them on.. And I can “become” them to some extent. This would be empathy, feeling what they’re feeling.

This is an embodied, physical action. One of my teachers has said, “When the Buddha meets a sad person, the Buddha is sad. When the Buddha meets a lonely person, the Buddha is lonely.”

Once both people are tuned into this same feeling, same “radio station”, you can be in their world and point things out.

Yet, this is not what most people do. Instead, they want to “understand” a person from a mental cognitive point of view. “Oh, you’re this type of person.”

But, what I’m finding with circling is the importance of empathy, to feel where they are at with my body first and foremost. Then I can understand them. It’s still a lingering question how long I need to keep the physical embodiment. But, the less clear or tuned in to how that person is, the more I need to stay with the embodied empathy.

There is this lingering question around burnout. My sense is that this capacity can be developed and trained more and more to be able to hold more and more. And that as long as I stay in presence and awareness instead of reactive, unconscious identification then even the negative, painful emotions don’t have to burn me out and can even energize me and make me feel more alive.

The willingness and surrender to take on another person’s world at this embodied physical level is a willingness and trust to let go of myself. Ultimately, my heart cannot be broken as Junpo would say.


Seeing people through the lens of compatibility includes both self and other.

Often times, people go into situations focusing only on themselves or the other person.

The idea of compatibility originally stuck in me when I read Mark Manson’s writings on dating and relationships. So, let’s use dating as a metaphor.

Some heterosexual men focus only on the woman, particularly the woman’s physical beauty. Often times devaluing themselves and actually just looking to compensate or boost their egos by dating a beautiful woman. While there is nothing wrong with being attracted to a beautiful body that isn’t enough for a relationship. And, frankly, boring for most women for men to only see them as a body to possess.

On the other hand, there are men who focus on themselves too much. This shows up as insecurity, hesitation, anxiety, inadequacy, and so on. This shows up in interactions as agreeing with the other person on everything, name dropping, putting others down, and so on. In this case, it’s all about proving one’s value with the starting belief that my value must be lower than this woman’s. Or the flip side of negging where you try to put a woman’s value down to your level or below.

Most of the time, people feel like they always have to be able to “close” or “win” every single interaction. But, dating, is the one place where you don’t have to win every single time. In the end, you only need one partner (unless you’re aiming for polyamory). Better to quickly find out compatibility and move on to the next person if it’s not compatible.

In all these cases above, it’s not about compatibility. It’s about either me or them.

From a sales perspective, you could say this is the difference between features and benefits.

When selling a product or service, a lot of people try to just list off all the great features they have. But, what everyone cares about is whether or not this product/service will help me? How will it help me? In that case, the starting point isn’t to just list off a bunch of features but question and learn more about the person’s vision, needs, pains, and challenges. Figure out what they need and then how your product is compatible in helping them. I look for the areas where we are compatible and focus on that.

Likewise, when I did resident recruitment, not everyone is going to become a modern monastic. It’s pointless to even try to do that if not unethical. I simply needed to get in front of enough faces and people to find the ones who were already searching for what I had to offer but didn’t know it existed.

Once you change the point of view from “I have to close every single interaction or else I’m a failure” to “My job is to get to know this person and express myself to find if we’re compatible”, a lot of the stress and anxiety goes away. It’s no longer about just me or just them. It’s a relationship.

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.

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.