Introducing themselves, Dharma Doc and his aggravating sidekick, Bandido-- Dharma Doc— (Dharma Doc stands in his garden leaning on his hoe where he has been weeding. Dressed in khaki work…
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you have to keep moving.Albert Einstein
I want to take a moment and focus of my personal challenges and blessings in 2021. As the end of 2021 slams shut and 2022 comes roaring in, I am thankful for my family, friends, blessings, health, and that I still have a sense of adventure–and the ability and resources to do something about them. In short, 2021 has been a year of life shifts for me, two which have taken place in the last week. Following on Einstein’s quote above, I have been able to keep moving forward and thereby, maintain my balance. That said, 2021 was a year of significant changes for me.
The first six months of 2021 for me while sitting at home in hermit isolation from THE COVID pandemic, I poured a lot of effort into going deeper into my Zen spiritual practice. In this regard, even though I was very isolated, the pandemic had a blessing: via Zoom I was able to participate in several intense meditation “retreats,” called sesshins, from home, including meetings with my Roshi, during those first six months. I had not done a sesshin for about seven years. If the pandemic had not come along, my Zen Windhorse Center would have never (probably) started offering remote services, sesshins, and meetings with the Roshis via Zoom. Zen is an “in person” type of practice. Offerings via Zoom and Internet was almost unheard of prior to the pandemic. Since those first days, and with vaccinations and precautions, the Center has backed off somewhat, but still offers Sunday services, weekly sittings, and the first three days of sesshins via Zoom.
Did I make any progress with my efforts to go deeper? Yes. I found out how to reach a point of great stillness, which I’ve blogged about earlier (see, “Stepping into the Stillness“) and started working on my first koan, the famous Mu koan. As I have moved away now from those intense days, tapping back into that stillness is often elusive or short lived. In these holiday season, I have slipped out of being consistent in my practice. I’ve paid a price for that negligence. I can only briefly touch that stillness but not hold onto it. To “hold” it, that is, to be able to stay in it, requires more practice. The stillness helps me maintain my equanimity to cope with the ups and downs of my life. Consequently, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to get back deeper into my practice.
That first six months of 2021, I also closed down my counseling practice. I had been a professor of Clemson University for 23 years, so I thought it only fitting to step out of counseling at 23 years too. I like symmetry. No counseling practice, no need for the office space upstairs. I could downsize and move a reduced office to the multipurpose room downstairs. It occurred to me after a couple of months of being away from the counseling that, Ah ha! I could renovate my upstairs office suite into a studio apartment for rental and replace some of my counseling income.
Still in the first half of 2021, I sold my truck…(more…)
After working several months to ge my upstairs office suite converted to an apartment, which also involved downsizing and decluttering, I was not prepared for the onslaught when I put the ad for the apartment up on FB Market last week. What a nightmare! If I didn’t believe there was a housing shortage before, I am a true believer now.
Because of the relative low rent, $450 per month that included utilities and Internet, within 30 minutes of posting, I was being flooded with inquiries and quickly became overwhelmed. I had people that were homeless, many desperate stories, in addition to a large number of not-so-desperate inquiries. The desperate stories really pulled at my co-dependent, resuer tendency that I had done so much work on through the years and the subject of a separate post later (maybe).
I had one inquirer that was homeless and living out of his car, or should I say, her car. She was trans with numerous medical problems. Another, was in a very dysfunctional family situation and being kicked out of her mother’s home that night with nowhere to go. Yet another, a mother with two children, that was homeless. On and on the stories went. This went on for two days. As a mental health counselor (retired), my red flags lit up. Many of these people had some serious psychological issues they needed to work on. This was not a counseling job. These crazies were asking to live right above me in my house. No way! It is one thing when, as a counselor and in a professional counseling situation, you can send them home after the session. The boundaries are very firmly delineated.
While I did enjoy meeting and interviewing a few of them, I had soon talked to and interacted with more people than I had for years, since doing continuing ed workshops back in the early 2000’s, I’m thinking. This caused dissonance in my hermit mindset to say the least.
Luckily, both of my daughters have very strong business heads. My oldest, Elian, quickly counseled me to tell everyone that I was only now showing the apartment, interviewing, and taking applications. That I would make a decision by the following Monday. It was Friday when I kicked off this adventure. And my youngest, Amy, slapped me repeatedly (metaphorically) when I made an early decision to rent to the woman that was sexually abused, had PTSD, and was going to be homeless that night. “Dad, you are such a rescuer! You are trying to rescue that woman!” Her persistence got through, finally. I had slipped down the co-dependency rabbit hole. Shit! Amy kept reminding me, “Dad, this is a business decision!”
This story has a happy ending…(more…)
This is a story I wrote years ago right after it happened and after I had published my first book, WindWalker: Journey into Science, Self, and Spirit (2000). It’s a great story, but didn’t fit into my Guru book either. I would like to get it out there for others and want to thank Dannion Brinkley for the experience. For those that don’t know, Dannion is a international motivational speaker and the best selling author of Saved by the Light: The True Story of a Man Who Died Twice and the Profound Revelations He Received, and several other books. Meeting him was a real adventure. Experiencing his Klini bed was a real honor–as well as quite of an experience. Read on…
I had asked Mel, Dannion Brinkley’s cousin and a friend of mine, if Dannion would let me try out his Klini “bed.” Mel had told me about the bed, and I had subsequently read about it in one of Dannion’s books. It was some sort of bed that put people into an altered state of consciousness. Among other things, Dannion used the bed in his hospice and advocacy work with veterans.
Mel helped Dannion organize and keep track of his busy appearance schedule. They grew up together in Aiken, SC. Mel talked to Dannion about my meeting him and experiencing his Klini bed. Dannion had sent word back to me through Mel that, yes, he would be at his old home place in Aiken, SC, and he would let me experience the chamber and the bed. Chamber? I thought it was a bed of some type? Nonetheless, I felt truly privileged that he had agreed. Mel later told me that Dannion only invited a few people to his house to use this special chamber. It was his family’s home and where he grew up. He stayed there when he was in Aiken from all his world travels, which were extensive. I felt greatly honored.
Dannion was a true Warrior, even though his work now is that of a healer, teacher, and advisor. If ever there was a Platonic copy that reflected the Ideal Warrior, Dannion was it. He stands about 6’3” and was striking with his red hair and goatee. Women’s heads turned when he passed. At age 56, he still looked in top shape and not someone with whom you would want to tangle. On top of all this, he was brilliant and talented. Among his many talents were his psychic abilities, which were substantial. To encounter Dannion was be a real head trip. Before his first near death experience (NDE), he was just your everyday black ops commando sort of guy.
He started this illustrious career as an angry boy in Aiken, getting in fights with anyone that would take him on and in general, raising hell. By the time he was in high school, he had to go out of town to find someone to fight him. Such was his reputation and abilities. As a young adult, the local police knew him well, and usually sent him home when they caught him out drinking and getting into his general mischievous activities. They did not want to tangle with him physically. He was likable even then.
Vietnam came and he joined the armed services. His talents and abilities being recognized, he was trained in special operations. He was a hit man. He would go out in the jungle alone, sitting for days to take out specific high ranking enemy targets. After Vietnam, he moved on to help out the CIA with similar activities in South America. A very talented guy. Then came his first NDE.
Dannion writes about his near death experiences in his book, Saved by the Light: The True Story of a Man Who Died Twice and the Profound Revelations He Received. As his story goes, while talking to his mother on the phone one evening during a thunderstorm, he had just remarked that they really should get off the phone so that they would not get electrocuted. (Remember the days of telephone lines, before cordless versions or cell phones?) Lightening struck, and he was glued to the ceiling by the powerful electrical charge that came through the telephone line. If it had not been for his wife at the time, who was a nurse, he probably would have died. It took him years to recover from the neurological and physical damage from this near fatal accident. It ended his career as a hired killer, and turned him down the path of a peaceful warrior. He still suffered greatly from intense pain from those injuries.(more…)
I am in the process of downsizing, decluttering, and simplifying my life right now. This is in preparation for converting my upstairs office suite, a converted attic crawl space, into…
Serenity, Simplicity, Self-Sufficiency, and Eco-Centricity
I have decided at this late stage of my life to live an eredite lifestyle. Actually, maybe this is more like where I find myself at this time in my life, and I quite like it.
I have been pulling further and further away from the culture and society in which I grew up and lived all these 73 years. This process actually has been ongoing for several decades, but has accelerated the last few years. For the first time in my adult life I find myself living alone and single. This process has been further augmented by my closing down my counseling practice. I am now in “retired” status mode with regards to my LPC (licenced professional counselor). I guess I am “emeritus” here as I am an Emeritus Professor of Zoology from Clemson University?
Classically hermits were religiously oriented, e.g. The Desert Fathers and Mothers of fourth century Egypt, Thomas Merton, John the Baptist, etc. They went to the deserts, forrests, mountains, etc., to be away from society and people and to get closer to God. But then there was Henry David Thoreau his two years on Walden Pond (Walden) Thoreau was not exactly religious but talked a lot about God and nature. Walden was mainly his relating his life experiment in individualism, a classic protest against government interference, and a life of simplicity and being close to nature. I’m not going that far but in that direction.Thought a lot about it. Daydreamed for over a couple of decades off and on about building a Tiny House and living in the Chihuahuan Desert area in Big Bend area in Texas. Hence my two books, WindWalker and Guru, that took place in or in part in that area.*
I am not “religious.” I am, however, spiritual. Spirituality, I define as cultivating serenity and personal growth–a very secular definition. No religion per se involved. In my Guru book, I write about secular spirituality (pp 138-139). Of how you can be spiritual without being religious.
The second title above is a subtitle. The whole of the first two together represents the working title of my current book project. I started out with a working title of, Buddha on a Bike. This will probably become the introductory chapter now. Many of my blog posts will become components of this project. As I surveyed the hermit literature, it is replete with all kinds of God/religious stuff but sorely lacking in a secular perspective. This deficit is where my book is directed. It will not be directed per se at hermits, but rather to folks that wish to cultivate serenity, simplicity, self-reliance, and eco-centricity in their lives. Eco-centricity, coming from an ecological frame of reference in our perspectives and actions, I discuss in more detail in an earlier post.
As hermits go, they can take all kinds of forms. I am located in a small South Carolina town, close to my family: adult children (3), grandchildren (5), and one great grandchild. I interact and communicate with them daily usually. We have family dinners and celebrations. I can pick up the phone, email, or text, any one of them, sometimes just to chat. I take daily walks down the street to my daughters and visit with my two-year old granddaughter. She has her Granddaddy wrapped around her finger. So, I’m not all that isolated.
Part of this process has been my selling my truck, switching to a bicycle-only lifestyle (at least as a trial), downsizing, simplifying, and decluttering. The last three are in progress. I am going through my house, office, and shops taking a Maria Kondo (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up) approach MOL. Not quite that OCD, but trying to really evaluate stuff. I plan on having a big yard sell with much of it. Some, I’m selling on Craig’s List or FB Market. The rest I’ll donate to one of the area thrift shops.(more…)
These are the philosophies that guide my life. Using a cooking metaphor, my "religion" is atheistic religious naturalism and my spiritual practice is primarily Zen Buddhism with a mix of…
I’ve been biking it entirely now for two weeks as of Tuesday. How is that going?
The biking part per se is going fine. It is one thing to do the planning in your head, finding solutions on how to get places, what to do when this or that happens, etc. Reality hits when you are actually doing it! The two things that are really troublesome are my increased feelings of anxiety-driven vulnerability and the challenging reality of trying to do this in rural, small town South Carolina when you don’t have a backup car or truck. The latter is also an aspect of vulnerability. On the positive side, I am doing it, which is commendable.
Early Sunday morning I took an exploratory ride into Easley, only some seven miles northeast of here down SC Hwy 93. Thanks to Google Maps’ bicycle app I discovered a back road way into Easley that starts just down the street from me. I had never been down the street, as in my truck I usually turned off before I got to it or shot right past it to pick up Hwy 93 to go into Easley in my truck. The back country road was a wonderful winding, scenic country road that ends just where Hwy 93 comes into Easely. It was Sunday morning and so the traffic on Hwy 93 once I got to Easley was minimal. There no good way to get around getting on 93 once you’re in Easley unless you go over to Hwy 123, which is four lane but heavy traffic. Hwy 123 is the main thoroughfare between Clemson and Greenville. Not to be attempted on a bike except as a suicide mission. It’s 65 mph, heavy traffic, and no shoulders.
Early that morning I had had a strange dream that was in part in anticipation of this planned bike ride. In the dream I was standing atop a high dam over a lake below. I was much younger, a kid, say junior high. There was several kids my own age on the dam with me. I watched as several of them jumped off the high dam into the crystal clear lake water below. The water looked very peaceful and calm. It was like being in the clear waters of the tropics or Florida Keys. I watched as the boys who jumped came back up to the surface and excitedly begin clambering back up to the top of the dam. I wanted to make the jump and was trying to gather my courage to do so when I awoke. I love dreams. Dreams can tell you so much about what’s going on in your subconscious.(more…)
The Secular Hermit: Cultivating Inner Peace, Personal Growth, and Eco-Centricity is the working title of one of my book projects. Here I want to define the term, "eco-centricity." We will…
Wow, this first weekend without my truck was rough! I mean, I knew this transition was going to take some time to adapt to, but didn't see this coming. Talking…