Snippets of my childhood come to me throughout the day as I am meditating. Long forgotten memories I didn’t even know I had. I wonder where they’re coming from. My earliest memories are age 4. I am at daycare during nap time. I don’t know why there is designated nap time. At four years old, I never took naps. Blankly staring at the ceiling in a dark room wondering when it would be over. We’d lay on plastic cots on the floor. My mind would race. I suppose this is a four year old version of meditation. When you can’t sleep during nap time…
Another daycare memory. I am on the playground high up on a platform, next to the slide and monkey bars. I stare down at the ground covered in sawdust. I jump, fearless of falling. It’s really high up for someone under three feet, but I land safely.
I don’t know why these seemingly mundane memories stand out to me now. Maybe it’s a return to innocence. Purging all of these unhappy adult experiences, by way of bad dreams, and remembering more innocent times. When nothing really mattered and life was simpler. Maybe that’s why I want simplicity and minimalism in my life. It’s a return to innocence. Getting back to my inner child.
Today is my birthday and I am 27. It seems like yesterday I was just turning 25 and just like that, I’m in my “late twenties”. A year ago, I was living in Oregon, still trying to get over the demise of a long term relationship that I let define me; and that still defined me during my recovery process, which took a good full year, more or less.
When you get out of a five year long relationship, it’s hard not to let your life be known as “before the relationship”, “during the relationship” and “after the relationship”. You still define your life by your relationship even after you are free of the shackles. This kind of timeline is why I have stopped talking about “the relationship” and why I hesitate to go into it here. At this point, my life is so immeasurably different that I can’t even relate to the person I was in my relationship; I have changed. That part of my life seems so surreal as to be unreal. I can’t believe I used to own a house and was on a set track of mediocrity. I knew I wasn’t reaching my full potential and I’m glad I am single. I’m happy. For the first time in my life, I am not pining for anyone, much less a relationship. And that’s why I know I’m finally ready to try again. Whenever that happens, I’m ready. I’m ready for the inevitable and eventual pain and suffering.
But mostly, I’m ready to return to Innocence.
Now, I am at a monastery retreat studying Zen and practicing meditation. Each week, we have “talent” exhibition classes and we take turns sharing skills. The above was an improv dance that me and another classmate performed last week.
4:45am. Wake up. Rub eyes groggily. Sluggishly go to the bathroom. Splash water on my face. Wake up.
Another day, another running meditation.
Near daily, I go running around the temple grounds to get my exercise. I wake up at 4:45am, before our morning chants start at 6:30am, to give me more of that Discipline and routine I’m lacking in my normal day-to-day life. Running has always been a love/hate relationship, but its the best form of meditation that I have. When I’m running, I am present. My senses are in tune to the air I breathe; the wind against my face. My mind wanders, but I observe it. Ideas are sprung when I run. Blog entries. Poems. Stories. The what is the meaning of my life-ness (if you figure that one out, tell me).
5:00am. Church bells. Light and soothing in the crisp, morning air. Dancing upon the morning hustle of waking in the heart of Bacolod city. The temple isn’t outcast in mountains, outside of civilization; it is a part of it, and our four month “seclusion” isn’t so strict after all. Once a week, having opportunities to outreach or volunteer in the community, or an outdoor excursion for a session of meditation. But I digress. Back to running…
I am barefoot now. I’ve taken up barefoot running. Easing into it in steps. Short sessions and then back to flip-flops. Proper tennis shoes are overrated. I don’t know how Zen this is, but it’s one more kinesthetic experience. My sense of touch heightened as I feel the cool concrete beneath my feet. It’s not that bad. The concrete is fairly smooth but there are little rocks I can’t see in my blurred, near-sighted vision, giving me sensational surprises beneath my sensitive feet. As I run the stretch of the the temple grounds nearing the back of the monastery, an animal scutters away to hide, surprised by the sound of someone coming. I think it’s a lizard, or maybe it’s a rat. It scutters every morning and scares me as much as I scare it.
Barefoot running has been growing a subculture following by some running enthusiasts. Some naturalists think that due to our evolutionary hunter/gatherer past, humans were meant to run barefoot. The mechanics of running are completely changed without the aide of footwear. Barefoot runners tend to strike their foot to the ground at the balls of their feet, or the middle of the foot, causing less collision force and impact compared to the heel-to-toe strike with cushioned shoes. Because of this, some experts say barefoot running can help prevent injuries because it actually causes less strain on your feet.
Barefoot Running and Zen?
From a Buddhist perspective, barefoot running could be considered to heighten your sense awareness and thus bring you more forcefully into the present moment. There’s a simplicity to going barefoot; walking or running. Each step on the ground is like your brain calling you to attention. “Now! now! now!” You feel each sensation more forcefully and you have to work on overdrive just to keep up with each new sensory perception. The benefit of this is you probably won’t have any time to worry about the future or any current day-to-day stress. Just feel, move and react.
The simplicity and minimalism that comes with barefoot running is another concept in conjunction with Zen. Running is already a cheap sport, because you don’t need much equipment other than footwear, which could cost anywhere from $20 to over $100+. But what if you got rid of running shoes altogether? One less thing to worry about buying while simplifying your life. The childlike innocence of barefoot running might bring memories of running around barefoot in the fields. Bringing you back to childlike awareness is like the concept of beginner’s mind. You don’t have to run for sport, because you’re an athlete. Run because its fun, because you like what it feels like to run barefoot in the grass or on a sandy beach.
Being childlike is considered a good thing in Eastern philosophy. People should learn the value of play; knowing life shouldn’t be taken so seriously. The non-conformity of barefoot running might be a huge deterrent for most people. I won’t lie. It’s a lot easier to be non-conformist when you’re inside temple grounds in a third world country than it is in your average American suburban neighborhood. Every once in awhile though, it’s good to shake things up. I’ve learned to embrace my non-conformity because I know that I wouldn’t have it any other way.
These are the thoughts running through my mind as I meditate on a barefoot running session…
Colin, from Exile Lifestyle, has a unique way of networking that will help you learn how to socialize not only for an emotional benefit (making new friends), but a well-rounded approach that can help leverage yourself in all aspects including professional. Being an INFJ (or is it INFP?), this is useful information, especially for someone who wants to become a professional freelancer, and location independent nomad.
In the 21st century, there is no such thing as job security. Sad but true. The only thing you can control is yourself, and how you market yourself to others. If those words seem too intimidating or professional, just think of it as how you make an impression on others. Obviously, you want to make a good impression, and meet new people that you might have a connection with. Colin makes “networking” fun and enjoyable. Building communities and a good social network is one of the keys not only to success in work and life, but in longevity.
I had the pleasure of writing a short contribution for Colin in his brand new e-book, as well as other contributions from all over the blogosphere. If personal and career development is up your alley, don’t miss this e-book!
If you don’t know who Colin is, you should. He is a multidisciplinary designer traveling all across the globe and making his business mobile and location independent. He lives four months at a time in a new country decided and voted on by his readers in his Exile Lifestyle community.
Obviously, at a Buddhist monastery, I can’t exactly network awesomely but I’m brainstorming and thinking of what the next step in my life should be. Colin’s e-book provides clear, concise advice for people wanting to develop themselves as individuals.
To visit Exile Lifestyle or purchase his new e-book, click here.
I can barely sleep on the night before my travel to Negros island in the Philippines. My life is about to change dramatically, unlike I have ever known it before. 5am and I’m up. Was I ever really sleeping? My family packs me a lunch of spam sandwich stacked with three slices of bread instead of two in Philippine’s most charming white “Wonder” bread. They must think the extra slice will fill me up better, but I don’t eat it. One of the most hated processed meats in the States is a common meal: SPAM. Siao Pao (Chinese steamed bun with meat filling) makes its way into the plastic lunch bag. Two fresh eggs from the chickens my uncle owns, and three tangerines. I know this will be the last time I eat meat again for the next four months. Maybe longer. Who knows if I’ll keep this up?
The ride is surprisingly easy, but long. A simple one hour bus ride to Cebu City followed by a two hour bus ride to the Toledo docks where a ferry boat boards land transportation and people to the neighboring island, another two hour fare. Transportation in the Philippines isn’t fast, and after the ferry lands, we’re faced with another two hour adventure across Negros’ mountainous terrain along the windiest roads I have ever been on. At least we have air conditioner. The bus slowly lugs along up and around and up and around, with no railing along cliffs and barely a shoulder outlooking my right side window. The dizzying, ear-shifting altitude is worth it as we near lush green rice fields; one of the prettiest sites I’ve seen in the Philippines yet.
My travel companion, Beau and I discuss our histories, past relationships, non-conformism. We’re different and we know it. That’s why we’re here, I guess. Looking for different experiences. Looking for questions. Looking for answers. Wondering what truth is. The parallels in our lives intersect in this moment and we’ve got synchronicity. I assume that’s what binds us all together in the next coming months.
A Chinese woman comes to pick us up from the bus station not long after our final arrival. We’re whisked away in an air conditioned van with two female monks, an older Chinese woman, and a young man in his early twenties, Dave, who has helped coordinate and gather all the students to the program. Six plus hours of straight travel and I am tired. It’s dinnertime and I graciously accept my first vegetarian meal. Noodles, rice and a leafy soup. Four straight months of this vegetarianism and Chan (Zen) Buddhist lifestyle. The world is a trip.
I eagerly bite into a vibrant looking baby carrot floating in the soup. I love carrots and this one tastes especially feisty. So feisty that its burning my mouth and making my eyes water. In my tired, post-trip daze, I had eaten a red jalepeño! For someone who hates spicy food and tries to avoid it whenever possible, this was my first experience with a red pepper. They told us one of the cultural customs here at the temple is to finish everything on your plate, so make sure you dish out exactly what you need. I graciously tried to swallow down the pepper and offered a grimaced smile while I grabbed for my glass of water. My first day and I was already getting a Buddhist lesson: mindfulness. Be mindful of the food you eat and put into your mouth. Know that a carrot is actually a carrot, and not a pepper. A tired body is no excuse for a tired mind.
The following is part of Lilu’s TMI Thursdays. Visit Live it Love it for more.
I remember the first time we picked up the lube at the sex shop. It amused me to see such a “hardcore” image on the packaging itself. And that typeface! In heavy sans serif calling my name as if to say “FUCK ME IN THE ASS WITH HELVETICA!” Penthouse Black Label Heavy Duty Anal Lube. It was sexy indeed. A designer who’s trained to appreciate beauty can’t help but buy the lube with imagery. Imagine…
You, me and Helvetica. We got a date. Place your fingers in the container and then your fingers on my ass and play. Play that punky emocore Blood Brothers shit that makes me feel 7 years younger and in art school. I know it’s no longer my usual fare, but babe, this isn’t my usual night. Remembering the night I was hopping up and down covered in sweat and pushing bodies against me in a musical orgy of sound. Remembering the night they opened for Glassjaw. Or the night the cute boy who loved Poison the Well found out I loved Poison the Well. Back when the same music taste meant you were perfect together, instead of things that really matter like lifestyles and values. He asked me out and I said no because I’m an idiot. I can only imagine what would have happened if I said yes, in his white, Anglo-Saxon, privileged counter-culturalism that made me think he’d fuck on the first date. I’ll stroke your cock with heavy duty anal lube. Make sure you’re ready to ravage my Asian ass. Make me scream higher than that blood curdling Blood Brothers as you place your big cock in me bareback and ride. Ride, baby, ride.
I’m giving away my Heavy Duty Anal Lube to a random commenter because I simply have no use for it any longer.
1) I am currently at a Zen monastery living a monastic and ascetic life. (Yes, I am aware I am a woman of paradox.)
2) I am single.
3) Obviously, with one and two combined, I am celibate (one year, five months and still going strong).
4) I don’t want to use the lube on a future partner because it’s tainted with bad ex karma.
5) I understand the value of impermanence and do not want to hold on to it any longer.
6) I am willing to give the rest away to a worthy person. There is still a lot left!!
If anyone wants FREE Floreta approved anal lube, comment now!! Comment as much as you’d like. Tweet this. Whatever. Each tweet or comment gives you another entry. What, you don’t want used lube? Try me. ^_~
UPDATE: Happy April fools. Hope you enjoyed my humor.