Buddha Bike Update: Vulnerability

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.

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Our Eusocial DNA

Part III in the “Process Theology, Revisited” series…

Perhaps a more appropriate title to this series would be, Process Atheology, as there is no “theo-” in my proposed “-ology.”

As for the other two posts in this series, this topic is also covered in Guru (Chapter 5, pp 68-72), along with cultural evolution, and based hugely on E. O. Wilson’s, The Social Conquest of Earth (2012), but not from the standpoint of Process Theology.

Humans are eusocial organism and characterized by altruistic (self-sacrificing) behavior, a character of eusocial species. Below are excerpts from my Guru (Chapter 5, pp 68-72) on eusocial species and evolution. Basically, we have two kinds of DNA from this perspective, our selfish DNA (see Dawson’s The Selfish Gene) and unselfish (eusocial) DNA. It is this unselfish DNA that offers a second solution to how a non-personal universe could “call” (think motivate or select for) humans’ (and other eusocial species’) altruistic behaviors. A personal Big Guy/Gal (a.k.a. personal God) up there telling us to be good and nice is an unnecessary hypothesis.

Below is from my Guru book explaining in a little more detail. I’ve edited it a little. Again, I am out on my vision quest and this is day two of the four day quest:

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Dissipation-Driven Adaptive Spirituality

Part II in my Process Theology, Revisited series–

Again, this hypothesis was originally presented in my Guru book, pp 108-118, in chapter 8 based on Jeremy England’s Dissipation-Driven Adaptation. Below is my discussion in those pages about what I termed, Dissipation-Driven Adaptive Spirituality.

Here I will jump to my main point that applies to my concern about Process Theology’s “God calling,”and how I address this concern from a secular, non-theistic paradigm? By “non-theistic” I mean without being based on a personal god, i.e. a god that is a person, place, or thing, but instead on laws and processes of nature, namely physics in this case. Instead of a God calling, on the driving force of the universe–energy dissipation–not some personal god out there doing a “calling” for humans to be “good.” Energy dissipation is the driving force not only of the universe but of spirituality too.

Here are text excerpts from that chapter, reproduced with the author’s permission. It is a rather lengthy presentation, first going over background. It introduces spiritual fitness, which I haven’t covered in a previous post. Spiritual fitness, analogous to Darwinian fitness, basically equals inner peace x personal growth, again as discussed in Guru. Charles is the guru on the mountain in the book. As presented, Charles’ hypothesis is a type of unified field theory of spirituality.

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Blood Moon Sesshin at Windhorse

Finished my first five-day sesshin with Windhorse Zen Center at about 3:30 pm Sunday, my regular place of “business” these days for meditation retreats. In my efforts to ease back into doing sesshins after seven years away from them, I did a two-day sesshin in January, a three-day one in February, and now a five-day in March. Working up to full-Monty, seven-day ones.

As a reminder, sesshins are intense Zen Buddhist meditation retreats. In the new tamer, Western culture version, we are only sitting in formal meditation eight hours a day, as opposed to the 9-10 in the old days as inherited from Japan.

I’m sure everyone who has not gone to one of these, wonders what do we do all day, from some 6:30am to 9:00pm? Below I’ve put our schedule from this sesshin, along with a little explanation. For now, I want to focus on more general principles.

Pre-COVID, when we were still doing these in person at retreat centers, three rules that were followed were: Noble silence, not looking around or in each others faces and eyes as we went about our day, and no social greetings, which follows from the first two. Sesshins are times for deep internal work on ourselves. These rules are in place from vast years of experience to facilitate that deep internal work. Noble silence is about not talking, singing, or making any unnecessary noise so as not to disturb or distract others. Only written notes are allowed except during chores. Again, the purpose is to keep the focus inward. No phone calls, texts, internet, music, etc. You are not supposed to journal either. This is where my Bandido archetype comes in, my own Captain Jack Sparrow: I look at this rule especially as a “guideline” rather than a “rule.”

Now that so much is being done virtually, in our case via Zoom, texts, and emails, many of these hard fast rules have been somewhat relaxed. Now these are not to be done unless they are sesshin related. For example, during Dokusan (formal meetings with my teacher during sesshins), he lets me know my schedule via email and tells me when he is about ready via text, then I pull up his Zoom link on the Internet, and we have our consultation. And, of course, since I’m doing these from my home, I can decide which rules to follow and to what extent as they serve me. The dogs don’t care, wondering why I’m spending all that time sitting in a chair or on my meditation (zazen) mat, and when I’m going to take them for a walk.

Why do I do sesshins? They are intense and a lot of hard work. They are exhausting. First, back to the old adage, “No pain, no gain.” Intense=pain=gain. Personal and spiritual growth are learning processes. Learning means brain growth (=neuroplasticity, specifically). Intensity stimulates more brain growth, thus more learning, thus more spiritual/personal growth. Second, my purpose in these is to deepen my spiritual practice and increase my personal growth. These are my primary aims.

Zen sesshins are focused on spiritual awakening or enlightenment, referred to as kensho or satori. In my case, this is a secondary goal. If it happens, it happens. I have had several of these satori-like experiences, what psychologist William James called “unitive experiences,” and describe them in my two books, WindWalker and Guru. These experiences were great, fantastic, wonderful, and what psychologist Abraham Maslow called Peak Experiences. They are not, however, my primary goal. Being an enlightened Buddha might be great. I don’t know, I’ve never been one. But, again, my primary goals are cultivating inner-peace and personal growth.

Back to the question now of what we do all day during a sesshin–

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