Friday, July 17, 2009

Materialism and Entitlement to Happiness

There is a sense that because we live in a time of plenty from a materialistic standpoint we are not entitled to be dissatisfied. That perspective itself has its roots in materialism because it assumes that material wealth and comfort are all one needs to be happy. Therefore, if a person's happiness is a function of material wealth and that person possesses material wealth, that person should necessarily be happy. As such, when that person is not happy under those circumstances something is necessarily wrong with that person.

At the same time, however, it has been my experience the jobs and life styles that "produce" material wealth are increasingly isolating, uninspiring and unsatisfying. And yet to feel unhappy in an uninspiring state that produces wealth in turn produces a state of cognitive dissonance because of the assumption that happiness and materialism are connected. The mind cannot exist in a state of cognitive dissonance and must search for a reason to bridge the gap. The classic example is walking into a dark room, flipping the switch but the light does not come on. Instantly, the mind must find a solution to make sense of this situation - is it the fuse, the light bulb, the wiring? Perhaps this switch does not control the light I originally thought it did.

In my estimation, the point is this, material wealth and entitlement to happiness are two separate phenomena and should be treated as such regardless of how powerfully the world seems to think they are connected. We (or at least I) have been programmed to think that this connection between happiness and materialism exists. But conversely, we have been programed to think that we are not entitled to be unhappy if we have material wealth and perhaps not entitled to be happy if we don't. My sense is that it would be liberating to sever this connection.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Sometimes I feel like I am missing out on life by not being able to live authentically and by subjecting myself to miserable experiences over and over again. Other times I feel like it is my journey to overcome this painful cycle. Not that the cycle is necessarily an integral part of the education process. Looking at this from the perspective that I am missing out is subjecting myself to more misery. Viewing the process as a journey takes a step back from the misery. It does not dispel the misery but it does lessen it somewhat.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Big Mind, Little Mind and Reality

There are different terms used to describe the dynamic between Big Mind (i.e., the true self, Atman, witnessing conscience) and Little Mind (i.e., the ego, monkey mind, chattering mind) and that which is real. "Reality" is a vast blank slate from which seemingly limitless data is derived. It seems that Big Mind is usually one step removed from perceiving reality directly. This one step is Little Mind, the commentator on reality. Big Mind can choose to perceive reality directly but tends to use the Little Mind as an intermediary. It is a question of what Big Mind chooses to focus its attention on. Big Mind can focus on reality itself or on the often distracting Little Mind. This dynamic suggests that Little Mind is not all bad as seems to be the rap that Buddhism gives it (at least as far as I understand it). It suggests that Little Mind exists as a helper for Big Mind so perhaps there is some useful role for Little Mind to play. However, for most of us (I assume) this relationship is out of balance. Big Mind has abdicated too much of its role to Little Mind. Put another way, Big Mind is sleeping and Little Mind is running the store.

Authentic - Definition

au⋅then⋅tic  [aw-then-tik]


1. not false or copied; genuine; real: an authentic antique.

2. having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence; authenticated; verified: an authentic document of the Middle Ages; an authentic work of the old master.

3. entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement with known facts or experience; reliable; trustworthy: an authentic report on poverty in Africa.

4. Law. executed with all due formalities: an authentic deed.

5. Music. a. (of a church mode) having a range extending from the final to the octave above. Compare plagal.

b. (of a cadence) consisting of a dominant harmony followed by a tonic.


1300–50; < LL authenticus < Gk authentikós original, primary, at first hand, equiv. to authént(ēs) one who does things himself (aut- aut- + -hentēs doer) + -ikos -ic; r. ME autentik (< AF) < ML autenticus

Related forms:

au⋅then⋅ti⋅cal⋅ly, adverb


1–3. Authentic, genuine, real, veritable share the sense of actuality and lack of falsehood or misrepresentation. Authentic carries a connotation of authoritative certification that an object is what it is claimed to be: an authentic Rembrandt sketch. Genuine refers to objects or persons having the characteristics or source claimed or implied: a genuine ivory carving. Real, the most general of these terms, refers to innate or actual—as opposed to ostensible—nature or character: In real life, plans often miscarry. A real diamond will cut glass. Veritable, derived from the Latin word for truth, suggests the general truthfulness but not necessarily the literal or strict correspondence with reality of that which it describes; it is often used metaphorically: a veritable wizard of finance.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Quote from the Book of John on Authentic Living

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

John 10:10

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Authentic Living and the Hero's Journey

If I look at my life in terms of a hero's journey from living inauthentically to living authentically, I can see a couple of different options. First, I could still be in the ordinary world having repeatedly received my call to adventure at various points in my life but having refused the call up to this point. The call to adventure in this instance would be the call to stop living my life as I perceive others would want me to live it and live it as I want to. Or second, I could be on the approach to the inner most cave, wherein I will face the ordeal that will fundamentally change me (i.e., the reward and resurrection). I could be facing the ordeal now as we speak. In either scenario I think the fundamental issue involves making the decision to live life on my own terms but also to know that is the right thing to do. Perhaps the knowledge part is the reward received after facing the ordeal.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Henry David Thoreau Quote on Authentic Living

I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die Discover that I had not lived.

Henry David Thoreau

Monday, June 22, 2009

Woody Allen Quote on Authentic Living

Over the weekend I heard Terri Gross interview Woody Allen on her radio show called "Fresh Air". Towards the end she asked him if he cared about what other people thought about him personally in connection with his marriage to Soon Yi Previn. His answer struck me as profound and I have transcribed it as best I could below:

If I say I don’t care it sounds so cold and callused. But let me put it this way. How could you go through life taking direction from the outside world? What kind of life would you have if you made your decisions based on the outside world and not what your inner dictates told you. You would have a very inauthentic life.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Kaizen And The Desire Not To Produce Crap

There is a dilemma between the practice of Kaizen to produce blog entries and the desire to put out a quality product. To push through a mental block merely to make another blog entry does not improve the quality of the blog. However, to become blocked permanently does not improve the quality of the blog either. Part of the value of a blog is in the frequency and timeliness of the posts. Another part of the value is in the quality of the ideas and information conveyed. I will endeavor to remain mindful of this dynamic going forward.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mental Blocks

Another aspect to the mental block phenomenon for me is a sense that I should be doing something else. This sense then conflicts with the desire to do what ever I am trying to do and that conflict produces anxiety. The anxiety (I assume) is connected with the amygdala fight or flight response which has a dampening effect on creativity. Now, this sense that I should be doing something else is an issue of entitlement. So it is not necessarily an issue of being lazy or deceitful (although it can sometimes feel that way). So, the solution in this instance would be to overcome the sense of lacking entitlement. That, unfortunately, is not an easy task.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Kaizen Post One

At this very moment I am sitting at my computer trying to force out a blog post and nothing is coming to mind. According to the Kaizen approach (as I understand it) the very act of writing this post is establishing new neuronal pathways which will allow me to circumvent the mental block in the future. The act of doing even on a very small and seemingly insignificant level works to break down resistance to acting. In that way it is effective.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


I've recently read a short book entitled "One Small Step Can Change Your Life - The Kaizen Way" by Dr. Robert Maurer. In the first chapter Dr. Maurer talks about how the fear of change or making big decisions is hard wired into the brain's physiology. Furthermore, when fear takes over, the creative process shuts down. The amygdala is primarily responsible for this dynamic by generating the "fight or flight" response. When this response is generated the creative part of the brain is shut down as non essential. Unfortunately for some people (myself included) the amygdala is stimulated under circumstances which do not necessarily warrant a fight or flight response. This blog happens to be an example of this. I have recently experienced a block in terms of generating daily blog entries. However, at a certain point that intention became less of a hobby and more of an obligation. Something about that dynamic aparrently stimulated my amygdala and shut down my creative process. What would happen is, I would sit down to write an entry and nothing would come to mind or I would be very easily distracted by something else. Briefly, the Kaizen way of circumventing the amygdala's fight or flight response is to take steps so small that the amygdala does not notice them. An example of a small step vis a vi this blog might be to take five minutes out of the day to write or perhaps only write one sentence or even one word. This not only circumvents the fight or flight response (so says the theory) but it also lays the neuronal ground work for bigger steps down the line. I will now test this theory by making blog entries daily. They may be very short at first but I will make them none the less.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Goals, Guarantees and Absolution

(Taken from an old journal entry dated Thursday November 17, 2005)

I'm going to leave the "goal / guarantee" topic for now and think about forgiveness... There are so many things, embarrassing moments, that I constantly think about. These things I have done in the past. Sometimes the remote past that I cannot let go of. I need absolution bit I don't know how to get it. I need to absolve myself but I just can't seem to be able to do it. Perhaps meditating on this will give me some answers.

(Taken from an old journal entry dated Friday November 18, 2005)

Do goals, guarantees and the need for absolution all relate in some way? Goals and absolution relate in that they both are concerned with the self and making the self better. I suppose there are no guarantees that goals will be achieved or absolution will be attained. The link here is the nagging doubt of life (aka suffering or existential anxiety).

What can be done about it? I guess I hold out hope that meditation will open some doors. I don't know.

I'm beginning to think about Lent. One vow I'm considering is to wake up at 5:00am and either exercise or work on TT. Of course this will be in conjunction with not drinking. I'm also considering reading Aquinas...


Reliving embarrassing moments is not as much of a problem as it used to be. I think I can attribute this to being more aware of my mind and how it functions. Embarrassment is a form of anxiety usually centered on past events or the present situation but in both instances there is a perceived awareness of the disapproval of others. At this point I am better able to distance myself from those thoughts or observe them and this seems to have robbed them of most of their power to recycle themselves and generate more anxious feelings.

The absolution I spoke about had to do with forgiving myself. In these situations my embarrassment and related anxiety were a form of self punishment for the wrongs that I had committed. I had to forgive myself in order to stop punishing myself. I've often thought that the Catholic confessional was a ritualized way of allowing the self to forgive the self. Many things about Christianity seem to be external metaphors for internal truths. Perhaps these metaphors are easier to digest than the actual reality of the situation at first. That is of course if the metaphor is true. I'm not entirely sure about that but it is of interest to me.

Finally, I see that there are glimmers of hope for me to escape these prisons I have created for myself. One is meditation and the other is Lent (which in a way is really a drawn out period of meditation). These seem to be the keys to the prison somehow. At least I am drawn to them as such. The jury is still out on that one.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


(Taken From a Journal Entry Dated Tuesday November 15, 2005)

There are no guarantees in life. Even that statement is not a guarantee - because I suppose under certain circumstances there are. Let us say that as a general rule there are no guarantees. But sometimes there are exceptions.

So what is the next step? I suppose it is to make the best out of what you have. I am not ready to give up on success. I don't think that's what this is about. You have to do what you like doing. Let's define success as doing what you want to do.

I meditated for 20 minutes on the concept of no guarantees. Hughey barked at something. Part of me was frustrated that he broke my concentration. Part of me tried to treat it as a learning experience. That is, there is no guarantee that I will have 20 minutes of peace and quiet to meditate.

I did a few minutes of yoga un-timed. It felt good. I would like to get back into that routine. This gets us into the goal dilemma. How do goals relate to guarantees?

I have several goals. I want to be healthy. I want to be creative and productive. I want to be a valuable part of a team. I want to be successful and financially secure. Right now I do not feel like discussing how to achieve those goals.


This entry (as memory serves) was inspired by a meditation seminar I attended while going through my yoga training. The instructor made a point of emphasizing the fact that there are no guarantees in life and (I suppose) to the extent we expect them and they do not materialize we suffer. Interestingly, I made a connection between goals and guarantees. I think goals are a type of guarantee we make for ourselves. If only I can achieve this goal then I will be happy. That may or may not be the case. But then again, is having no goals a better alternative? Perhaps it is in the way we approach our goals. It is the mindset, or what we perceive is hanging in the balance depending upon whether the goal is or is not achieved.

Another observation I made while reading this is how "in my mind" I was when I wrote this. This is particularly evident to me in the third paragraph. I was trying to achieve something by meditating. Hughey was getting in the way of that somehow. I'm not sure I was aware at the time of what it was I was trying to achieve. I think that now I would say I was trying to achieve "mindfulness" or a higher level of awareness of how in my mind I was at the time. However, being so in my mind I was not able to see this. And yet, I still meditated. What a long (and tiring) unfolding process this has been.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hope Revisited

A tunnel without light at its end is a misery and the journey is difficult if not impossible. But a tunnel (however long) with a light at its end (however faint) can be traveled one step at a time. This is hope. It is not belief in an outcome, necessarily. It is a type of knowledge and a feeling at the same time. Hope is indeed a good thing.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Interview With A Friend on Making Decisions (Part IV)

LENTMAN : From my own perspective, I'm beginning to see that I have a problem which stops me from experiencing life on the level that other people experience their lives. I'm not sure how to overcome this.

FRIEND : Can you further describe the problem that stops you from experiencing life on the same level as others?

LENTMAN : Well, there seems to be something about my personality that shuts me down during the decision making process that is not present (or does not seem to be present or is present to a lesser degree) in you and others. It's not just mental but also physical. I get tremendously edgy (my heart beats faster), I get irritable and often depressed. It is a feeling of complete hopelessness. Then I get so caught up in these symptoms that all I want is to not experience them anymore which motivates me to look for the quickest way out. It makes it very difficult to rationally make decisions under those circumstances.

FRIEND : Interesting. I don't think I knew about the physical part that you described. Is this related to the question you posed to me about avoiding disapproval by others?

LENTMAN : Yes. I guess I assumed on some level that other people were somehow able to not feel this way or fight their way through these sensations when confronted with similar situations. I'm starting to see that is not an accurate assessment of reality. What I mean is, I am starting to see that other people do not feel these sensations in the first place.

Switching gears a little, here's something I've been wondering. How do you know what you want? There are decisions I think I want to make but then when I make them they bring me no happiness or worse, lead me to situations where I feel imprisoned. I think sometimes I convince myself that I should make certain decisions but I'm realizing that the reason I thought I should have made the decision was not necessarily because I wanted to but because I thought it was the right thing to do. So I'm really confused about how I even know what I want. I'm pretty good about knowing what I don't want after I get it, but I have difficulty know what I want before I make decisions. Do you have any insight?

FRIEND : I have this problem too. The way I like to make decisions is to experiment with the various options, look at what's out there, try them on for size, and see what seems to feel best. If you have the time, this works well for things like buying a couch. But there are lots of decisions where you don't get to do that... like choosing one wife to be with forever for example. I would have liked to have had thirty girls to choose from, but it's not like that -- you get to say yes or no to just one option. I'm not sure there's any good way to make decisions like that.

Figuring out "what you want" is a different kind of decision, because you don't get any choices really. You have to have some kind of vision of where you want to go I suppose, and you have to know yourself and the kinds of things that make you happy and then you have to be creative with the possibilities. This has not been an area of strength for me either. I've tried to adopt that attitude that you don't have to figure it out perfectly in advance to make improvements. You do need to know what you want to change and have some idea of which direction to go in, but getting it exactly right isn't necessary.

Another thought... What criteria have you used to determine what the "right thing to do" is? Clearly, sometimes we have to do things we may not otherwise do just because it is the right thing, like pick up dog poop for example. Figuring out the "right" choice is not always easy, especially for the big decisions. What are some of your criteria?

LENTMAN : I think I generally consider the right thing to be that which benefits the needs of others.

FRIEND : Which others?

LENTMAN : Anyone who is not me.

FRIEND : This is not always a clear distinction.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Interview With A Friend on Making Decisions (Part III)

LENTMAN : How did you come to realize what your preferences were and what steps did you take to make them happen?

FRIEND : It took some encouragement from [my wife] to start thinking differently. She was the one who pointed out that I spent a lot of time in the woods and seemed to enjoy it, so maybe I should try to get a job that allows me work in the woods. Frankly, that would never have occurred to me. I had been only considering the possibilities that had been presented to me, none of which seemed very appealing. But by getting a different perspective, I was able to consider an alternate set of possibilities. It's making me think of that game Minesweeper where you see only a limited number of squares, and then when you click the right one, you suddenly get to see a whole bunch of other squares.

Once I became exposed to the new possibilities I decided to go ahead and try forestry. It wasn't an easy decision, because I recognized that if I went down that path I was setting a course and perhaps giving up some other path, but I knew something had to happen, and it seemed like the best available option at the time. Once the decision was made, it was a matter of putting in the time and effort to make it happen. It was a multi-year process to make the change, and in some
ways it is still happening.

LENTMAN : So it seems that supportive people definitely make a difference in the decision making process. In a sense, this is an outside influence impacting the decisions you make. Is there some kind of filtration process that you use to determine to whom you listen to make decisions?

FRIEND : Certainly, as I mentioned earlier, the people who are dependent on me (my immediate family) have a very high impact on the process. And I will certainly listen to advice from other people, especially if they know me well and are familiar with the situation. But it's more than just who I listen to when making a decision. At this point in my life, I don't really make big decisions on my own at all. Anything of any consequence ends up being a family decision, so [my wife] and I talk it through and make the decision together.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Interview With A Friend on Making Decisions (Part II)

LENTMAN : I was named after my father and at some point it was impressed upon me that that I had an image and legacy to live up to. Unfortunately I think I interpreted that to mean I had to follow a path that did not make the best use of my talents. But anyway, did your parents impress upon you that you had to live up to some image? It seems significant to me that you initially chose a career in math which was the same career path both of your parents took.

FRIEND : As I said, my parents were very controlling of me during my childhood, and they had a lot of influence over what I did, and few choices were left to me. Choosing math was a combination of this and the fact that I had nothing else that was an obvious choice for me (again, I'm not particularly good at big decisions). My parents thought I should major in math, I was good at math, there was nothing else, so math it was. It wasn't really an image thing though. Mainly my parents just wanted me to get prepared for a safe, secure job, and they thought a mathematics degree would enable me to get a job similar to the ones they had (working for a big corporation). From their perspective It was a familiar and reliable path so they encouraged me to go that way. Since I had no better plan, I went along with it. Eventually, I came to realize that I actually did have preferences of my own and began to pursue them. It took a while though. I sometimes feel envious of people who know what they want to do with their lives from an early age. On the other hand, not knowing what you want to do enables you to explore and look around, and that can be enjoyable if you have the right attitude.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Brief Note Regarding Talking About Meditation

I just finished a great book about meditation called "The Joy of Living" by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. Towards the end he mentioned that it is better not to talk about experiences had during meditation because it tends to promote pride which is somewhat antithetical to the process. I think (from my humble and inexperienced position regarding the topic) that this makes a lot of sense. Therefore, in that spirit I will only discuss meditation in a general way without discussing my own personal experiences, going forward.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Logical Tapestry

There is a temptation with this type of introspective bloggery to think all these ideas and concepts will fit into a system, or logical tapestry. And when that tapestry has been conceived new ideas that may or may not be congruent with the tapestry are now considered within the context of the tapestry rather than on their own unique merits. Of course the tapestry makes things more efficient and easier to understand and there is value with that, however, a question remains. Is the tapestry reflective of reality? If it is then great. If the tapestry is false, however, then its chief value lay in its ability to generate an illusory sense of security. It could be argued that an illusory sense of security is better than no sense of security at all. However, the thing about illusions is that they eventually fade away and cause suffering if they are relied upon and there is nothing to replace them. So what then? Is the answer to reject all tapestries and take in everything on its own merits? That seems cumbersome. Perhaps the answer is to adopt a tapestry but be open to the possibility that it might be false. This option does not seem to provide the same security as a tapestry in which one is fully invested.

So then why not become fully invested in a tapestry rather than to hold it at arms length? This brings me back to the post I made entitled "The Magic of Rigid Dogma". In that post I talked about an Evangelical Christian friend of mine who fully believed (or appeared to believe) that he was right and all those who believed differently were not only wrong, but damned. This tapestry of his certainly delivered to him a sense of comfort and security. But really, the only way for that tapestry to have the power to deliver security is to become fully invested in it. If the tapestry is correct then all is well. But maybe, even if the tapestry is false all is well as well. What I mean is, perhaps the security of the tapestry is enough. Or perhaps fully investing in a tapestry is a vehicle to get to a higher level. But then again, perhaps the idea that security is what is needed in the first place is false. If true then there is no need for a tapesty and perhaps there is security in that.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Interview With A Friend on Making Decisions (Part I)

In Lentman's continuing series of interviews with his life long friends he now turns to a particular friend chosen for his seemingly masterful ability to make decisions to shape his life as he sees fit. Enjoy.

LENTMAN : You have always impressed me by your ability to make choices to improve your life even if it brought about the disapproval of others. First of all, is this an accurate description of your state of mind? If not, why not? If so, what do you attribute this to?

FRIEND : I find this to be a really interesting question, and I've been thinking about it quite a bit. The timing of the question is also interesting since we have just gone through the process of deciding as a family whether to relocate. With three kids it will be a big change, and it's challenging to alter the course of so many lives. Still, after much deliberation, we arrived at the conclusion that it is a worthwhile and positive change to make.

I believe that approval and disapproval of other people more-or-less balance out. There will likely be people who won't like the change, but there are also others who will like it. But actually, that doesn't really matter. I'm assuming in your question that the people who disapprove are outside of my immediate family. Obviously, disapproval by my immediate family could not be so easily disregarded. Their happiness and mine are interwoven. They are dependent on me, so I must weigh their concerns. But with regard to those who are not dependent on me, since it is impossible to please everyone, it's probably not worth the trouble of trying. I try to do what's best for my family, and let the chips fall where they may.

Also, if the change we're talking about is one that would truly improve my life as the question states (and presumably the lives of my family), then the people that matter would surely approve. If they were to disapprove of an improvement in my life, then they probably don't care too much about me, so why should I care what they think?

So, what do I attribute this to? I'm not sure. Decisions are hard for me, so I try to simplify them. Considering too many factors would make them even harder. Also, to get a little Freudian, I had very little freedom as a child. As an adult I value my independence and sometimes resent it when I feel like someone is trying to control me. Disapproval may actually spur me on.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Morality, Meditation and Anxiety

Morality causes anxiety. When the mind perceives that a moral code has been broken then punishment must be meted out in the form of anxiety. Under normal circumstances the self and the mind are one so that when the mind produces anxiety the self feels it. Meditation (on the other hand) alleviates anxiety by putting distance between the self and the mind whereby the mind cannot so easily infect the self with anxiety. Now, it could be said that an anxious self tends to act immorally. For example, one reaction to anxiety is to take action to get rid of anxiety. The most common tactic is to distract the self in some way and the most effective distractions are typically the most destructive. Alcohol comes to mind here. Another reaction to anxiety is to become irritable and to lash out at other people. So, from this perspective, meditation is a moral act even though its immediate effect is to insulate the self from the punishment it seemingly deserves. In the long run (theoretically) the act of meditating will promote moral behavior by reducing anxiety. So in a round about way, meditation produces moral behavior by avoiding the punishment for imoral behavior. Or something like that. This reminds me of the wheel of suffering or samsara. Perhaps it is a miniature version.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Your Father Who Sees in Secret

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matt 6:6)

There is a sense in Christianity that thoughts matter and "improper" thoughts (e.g., coveting and lust) are sinful and morally wrong. Now, my understanding of Buddhism (and I make no claim to be an authority on the subject) is that thoughts are random and unavoidable and it is best not to get caught up in them. So, under one system these thoughts are crimes requiring a system of justice to mete out punishment and under the other, the thoughts themselves are in a sense their own punishment. Is there some way to reconcile these two positions?

I've often thought that the external, personal deity of Christianity is a metaphor for the actual thing. On one level this makes sense because God being outside of creation is probably not bound by the rules of creation and any attempt to define Him would probably define Him as an entity less than He actually is. This reminds me of a statement my freshman year roommate made to justify his non belief in an omnipotent god. "Can God make a rock so heavy that he can't lift it?" This question, I think, points out the limited nature of speech to describe the divine more than it offers an insight into the divine. So, what we cannot define with words, we describe with symbols.

The question then becomes, who is this Father that sees in secret? Is it an external entity sitting on a throne? Is it a deeper part of the self? Is it something else entirely? I think the answer to this question might serve to reconcile the Christian and Buddhist concepts of thought. But I really can't be any more specific than that. It's a cop out, I know.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Moral Implications of Meditation

According to my understanding of meditation the self (i.e., that part of consciousness that is able to observe thoughts) observes the mind (i.e., that part of consciousness that produces thoughts) and by doing so the self becomes detached from the mind. In this detached state, the mind becomes something of a seperate entity. This would imply (at least it does to me) that the self, therefore, is not responsible for the actions of the mind. As such, as the mind goes through the normal course of the day coveting, lustful, jealous, spiteful etc. there is a sense that the self can say "well, that's just the mind doing that and I'm not responsible for it." In other words, the self is not morally responsible for the actions of the mind even though it might experience the "pleasures" associated with the mind's bad behavior. It seems to me that meditation can then become a way of obsolving the self from its own "sinful" behavior. This confuses me a little.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Progress With Meditation

I've recently reached a point where I can better observe my mind in action. It is difficult to explain in words but it seems significant. There are points during the day that I become embarrassed for different reasons but I can now sort of observe this happening with the mindset of "oh, there it is again." Previously, I would have become enveloped in the embarrassment and that would have been my state of mind. But now I am to a certain degree insulated from it. Of course this does not encapsulate the subtleties of the experience but it points in the right direction. It is not a pleasant experience necessarily but is certainly more pleasant than experiencing embarrassment. More as it develops...


I've been mulling a specific example of the embarrassment I have been experiencing lately. I have been reading a book entitled "The Joy of Living" by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. The book is a basic instruction on Buddhist meditation as well as the philosophy and science related to the practice. I typically read this book on the train going to and from work. The cover of the book has a picture of the author dressed in his Buddhist monk robes. Recently I have become aware that I tend to hide the cover from the other people on the train by holding the book such that the picture is facing the floor or my body. The impulse to do this is strong. Now, when I observe myself doing this, my intellectual response is "there's no need to do that because there's no reason to be embarrassed about it." Yet I do it just the same. Upon further reflection, I think the reason behind my impulse is something along the lines of the other people on the train will see the picture of the monk and me reading the book and have one of several reactions. One reaction could be that they will see me, a Westerner, reading a book about Eastern philosophy and disapprove or think I was some "New Ager". Another reaction might be that they would see me reading the book and question my sincerity or say to themselves what right do I have to reach for enlightenment? Another reaction might be that I am somehow trying to impress others by my eclectic choice of reading material (this is their thought I am describing - actually it is my perception of their thoughts - Yeesh). Of course, on their face, these thoughts are ridiculous. I am perfectly entitled to read what ever I want and there is nothing so terrible about other people being aware of it. Unfortunately, the urge remains regardless of whether I am intellectually aware of it or am observing it in a meditative state. The interesting thought is that I am reading a book on meditation and meditating on my ego associations related to reading it in front of others. (At least I thought that was interesting.) :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Interview With A Friend on Confidence

I've been thinking about confidence as it relates to the issues I tend to want to discuss on this blog. Yesterday the idea struck me to interview my friend who embodies confidence. I had initially planned on asking one question with several follow ups, however, his answer to my first question was uniquely powerful in and of itself. In my mind it stands on its own and is fodder for further contemplation and exposition. Here is the interview:

LENTMAN : You've always struck me as a confident person who is able to maintain a sense of self worth even in situations that are not familiar to you. Is this an accurate assessment of your state of mind? If not, please explain why not? If yes, please tell me what you attribute this to?

FRIEND : Yes, I would say that is an accurate assessment of my state of mind. It's difficult to point to something as the direct cause of this way of being. I assume my parents had something to do with it- building within me a feeling that everything was okay and that I always had choices about the details, both big picture and day-to-day, of my life. My mother praised me a lot and always celebrated the things I was good at. My dad has a "so what" type of attitude about the world- he does what he wants to do and other people just need to deal with it. I see those things in myself.

I remember laughing a lot as a kid. I remember feeling like I owned the school I went to because during the day I had to follow the teachers' rules and then when the bell rang, they all went home- I continued to play there on the school playground. It was then that I rode the merry-go-round in the middle(!), I climbed the apple trees, ate the apples, climbed onto the roof of the school. This stands out as a formative dynamic- I saw the temporary and context-based nature of authority.

I remember in middle school one of the older kids picked on me all the time. I hated it. My brother suggested I "find him alone and beat the crap out of him." It scared me, but I felt like it was good advice. A few days later I was in a stairway during a class with no one around. I saw the older boy. He gave me a demeaning look and started to say something when I walked straight up to him, ready to do as my brother advised. He got a scared look in his eyes and he bolted out of there. I still feel proud of myself about that.

I think I've done a good job recognizing what I enjoy doing, what I'm good at, about what I want my life to be and working towards that. When I'm down, I can usually remember that I like myself, that I generally have a good time existing as a human on the planet earth, and that I have something to offer the world. These things help to build within me a core of confidence.

It makes me think about recently quitting my job... It was difficult work, made more unpleasant by the challenging social dynamics, and I rarely felt successful. I became unhappy. I didn't exercise, I was gaining weight, I was stressed out in the evenings, all night long, and on the weekends. I kept thinking about how if I just gave it the time I needed to learn it, then I'd be okay. And then enough things came to a head where it seemed like it was just too much. One of the chief things I felt was embarrassment about failing. Then I kept coming around to a feeling of "Fuck that. This sucks. I'm outta here." I remember remembering that I was actually good at some things, that a lot of people like me, and that I've been very successful in some settings.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Therefore I am Bad

There is a tendency in my thinking to observe "things" about myself and then to arrive at the conclusion that I am deficient and therefore should feel bad about myself. I used the word "things" because that word is sufficiently vague to cover the various categories of "things" to which I am referring. For example, a thing could be an embarrassing memory, a bad habit, recent performance, prospects for the future or the various aspects of the state of my present life. The list is endless. But the point of this post is to recognize this dynamic. I observe these things and then I conclude that I am deficient and should therefore should and do feel bad about myself.

I've recently been reading a book on Buddhist meditation. This is not the first time that I have exposed myself to the Buddhist mode of thought. However, like most learning experiences something is not fully appreciated at first glance but rather appreciation deepens with each repeated exposure. So, even though the material in this book is familiar to me, the experience of the material this time around has deepened and specifically has allowed me to witness this dynamic rather that be swallowed up by it.

Now let's return to the thought tendency I described in the first paragraph. By taking a step back from the thought rather than immediately feeling bad upon experiencing a "thing" I now see that there is something akin to a choice which is skipped over. I don't have to feel bad after experiencing the thing because the badness I attach to the thing is exactly that. It is badness that I attached to it. In reality (define as you wish) the things are neither good nor bad but merely things. It is the inability to see this that has kept me imprisoned within this tendency. Hopefully this realization will facilitate my liberation.

Friday, April 17, 2009

How to Transition From a Law Job to Something More Creative

I work for a large law firm in a major east coast city. It's been eight years now and suddenly I've discovered that I am tremendously ill suited for the career that I let happen to me. I'm now in my late 30s and wish to God I made different choices along the way. Rather than wallow in self pity, however, I would like to figure out my options. Unfortunately, I'm not very good at figuring out my options which is how I found myself in this predicament. I like to think of myself as a pretty creative person especially in the field of writing. That is what I enjoy doing the most anyway. This post is my message in a bottle set adrift on the infinite cybersea. Maybe someone will see this, take pity on me and point me in the right direction. Maybe making this post will be the sentinel event which rearranges my neurons allowing me to make proper decisions in life.

If anyone has any suggestions please feel free to comment.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Earning Revenue Through Blog Writing

An interesting thing happened yesterday. This blog earned $.01 through advertising. I'm not sure what formula is used to determine how much I earn and when it is earned. It has something to do with the number of times the web page is viewed and how many times the advertisements are clicked. So far, the advertisements have not been clicked and until now I had not earned any revenue. Yesterday, however, I crossed some threshold. A penny is just a penny but there is a world of difference between nothing and one cent.

It is interesting that this happened on the very day I made a post about trying to attract more viewers to the blog. I am not sure that there is a direct causal connection between the two events. At any rate, the experiment continues and I will post significant updates when they occur. I imagine the title of this post might generate some traffic.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Reintegration Into the Ordinary World

As an exercise in functioning within the Ordinary World I will now embark on a mission to see if I can attract more viewers to the Lentmen blog. I am curious to see how this is accomplished and there is no better education (for most things) than to attempt to do them yourself. One idea I have is to write about topics related to common interest with the expectation that people using search terms related to them will be directed (indirectly?) to this blog.

According to the following is a list of the most popular search terms for the week ending April 10th:

1. MySpace
2. Facebook
3. What does my name mean
4. How much should I weigh
5. How to get pregnant
6. YouTube
7. Craigslist
8. Vin Diesel
9. Dictionary
10. Burnout Alley

Okay then. Let's first talk about Myspace and Facebook. Well, I tried to look into Myspace once but found it very complicated and soon after gave up on it. Later on I discovered Facebook which was much easier to use. I originally looked into Facebook intending to track down some people I had lost touch with many years ago. Surprisingly, I tracked down the intended people with ease. Coincidentally, I got back in touch with other people around the same time not through Facebook but there must have been some kind of likeminded nexus at work behind the scenes. Anyway, time passed and I gradually got sucked into Facebook far more than I was comfortable with. People keep sending me their updates which then in turn sends me into the following mental exercise. First, I marvel at how more interesting and fulfilling everyone else's life seems in comparison to mine. I then ask the question, "should I be posting my status?" To which the response, "who the hell cares about my status?" is typically offered. But then I think, "Oh come on! You're just being antisocial. All these other people post their statuses seemingly without the same hang up." But then I try to think of a status update and cannot come up with anything suitably witty. I then generally become disgusted with the whole process at that point. The upshot? If you are prone to this type of thinking stay away from Facebook. I wish someone had this talk with me a few months back. So that's Myspace and Facebook. Stay tuned for "What does my name mean?" Actually, I'm not sure how I will write about that one without revealing my name but I'm sure I will come up with something.

Please visit the blog often and be sure to click on the advertisements. So far I've had about 170 page impressions (meaning the webpage was viewed 170 times) but no one has clicked on an add. Following these instructions will make my experiment a success. Tell a friend.


Lent 2009 is now over. The seal has been broken. The stone has been rolled away. I have returned with the elixir from the special world back into the ordinary world. This brings to mind a reoccurring dynamic. I expect things outside of myself to make me feel whole and end up being disappointed when they do not. Lent is just another example of this. I expect to go through the rigors of Lent and come out whole on the other side. I expect that those habits which made me feel un-whole before Lent will somehow make me whole when I return to them after taking some time off. Perhaps the mere recognition of this dynamic is a positive step.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Day Forty Two - End Game

Having passed the forty day mark, I feel like these last days of Lent are gravy (so to speak). This, of course, conflicts with the idea that Holy Week is the most intense part of Lent. However, I will be out of town this weekend and it will probably be a good time to break the Lenten fast at that time. Thoughts of "I am cheating" shall be ascribed to the chattering mind and will recieve a knowning wink in return.

That said, this end stage brings forth a familiar mental dialogue which chatters about carrying forth the Lenten disciplines into the ordinary world once I leave the special world of Lent. From my perspective now, it seems that should be a relatively easy task to perform. However, my experiences from Lents past suggest otherwise. The usual pattern is that I fall back into my usual self destructive patterns once again over time (perhaps not imediately but eventually for sure). That is a problem. On the other hand, this Lent seems markedly different than prior Lents. For one thing, the struggle and temptation was for the most part absent. Second, my mind although troubled by my usual hang ups is also quite stable and peaceful. So I suppose I will adopt a wait and see approach. It might also be useful to adopt some rules to keep me on the right path. I have a history of becoming obsessive with rules of this kind so I must also be on my guard not to fall into that trap either. There are many traps.

In any event, I consider this Lent to have been very, very successful. I am pleased with what I have accomplished (while being cognizant of the ego implications). There is always hope that things can improve. Hell, we went from eight years of George W. Bush to a Barak Obama presidency. We shall see. We shall see.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Natures and Values

In my last post "The Crests and Troughs of Belief" I mentioned E-Value and HP-Value. The following is a description of the "Natures" and "Values" that reality can be subdivided into. These are ideas that came to me many years back. Recently I have refined these ideas a bit (in my head). So, I think they will provide fodder for future posts. Enjoy.



The mind perceives reality by gathering information in three basic ways, (1) interacting externally (i.e., outside the human body) with physical things through the five senses, (2) the feeling of emotions internally (i.e., within the human body) and (3) the thinking of thoughts also internally. The mind then differentiates all that exists within reality into three categories: (I) that which he understands, (II) that which he does not understand but has the capability of understanding, and (III) that which he does not understand and has not the capability of understanding. Within this context, the object of understanding can be described with the two terms (A) Natures and (B) Values described below.


All things within reality can be assigned one of two natures. Each nature in turn subdivides into two sub-natures each. Natures are divided between that which is known called the “Physical Nature” and that which is not known called the “Spiritual Nature”. The Physical Nature consists of things that man knows such as objects and ideas. Objects and sensations belong to the lowest and least abstract sub-nature called the Material Sub-Nature. Ideas which man understands are contained within the second and relatively more abstract Intellectual Sub-Nature. The second, more abstract nature called the Spiritual Nature consists of things that man does not know. The Spiritual Nature consists of two sub-natures called the Mystical Sub-Nature, that which man does not know but can know and the Divine Sub-Nature, that which man does not know and cannot know outside of transcendence or revelation.

Man is perceives direct evidence substantiating the Material Sub-Nature through the five senses. Man is conscious of the Intellectual Sub-Nature by thinking. Man becomes aware of the Mystical Sub-Nature through the process of discovery and invention. Once something which was previously unknown becomes known it is “demystified” and moves from the Mystical Sub-Nature to one of the two Physical Sub-Natures. Man has no evidence of the Divine Sub-Nature and can only appreciate it through faith.


Value is the attribute which increases a thing’s desirability. Value can exist in one of two forms, Entertainment ("E-value") and Higher Purpose ("HP-value"). E-value is value which increases a thing’s desirability because it makes the passage of existence more enjoyable. E-value manifests itself through both the material and intellectual sub-natures and is therefore known. Examples of E-valuable things are amassing wealth for its own sake (material) or a the experience of a pleasurable thought for its own sake (intellectual). HP-value is value which increases a thing’s desirability because it elicits the impression that the experience of existence serves a higher purpose. HP-value manifests itself through all sub-natures and therefore can be known of unknown. Examples of HP-valuable things are amassing wealth so that one is not distracted by the anxiety of being in debt (material), studying philosophy to address the questions of existence (intellectual), meditating as a means of self-exploration or liberation (mystical or divine).

Day Forty One - Crests and Troughs of Belief

I posted a blog entry entitled "Hope" a while back. In it I talked about how I have been purchasing lottery tickets (specifically Powerball tickets) as an exercise in hope. The idea was that I was not so much interested in winning the lottery (although I certainly would not mind that outcome) but rather I derived some comfort in the knowledge that the lottery ticket sat in my wallet. The ownership of the ticket was the ownership of hope. This is actually true. Having the ticket in my wallet does for some reason act as an anxiety release valve and presumably that is because hope existed where it did not exist previously. However, checking the numbers the day after the drawing does produce mildly negative emotions in the form of feeling let down. The question is, does the positive emotion of owning hope outweigh the negative emotion of being let down? The answer is, I'm not sure. So, I have found myself in a belief trough in terms of this lottery ticket / hope experience. This however, is enlightening in itself in that by participating in one exercise I have opened my eyes to a larger pattern. So where does that now leave me? I have no illusions that insights such as these carry me one inch closer to my goal (or even knowing exactly what that goal is). It is E-Value rather than HP-Value. (E-Value being "that which makes the passage of existence more pleasurable" i.e., Entertainment and HP-Value being "that which serves a higher purpose than E-Value" i.e., Higher Purpose Value). These are terms I have carried with me for some time and perhaps will be further elaborated on in another post. So in conclusion, I suppose the lesson learned is that one should not confuse E-Value for HP-Value as I did by rationalizing my purchase of a lottery ticket as serving some lofty philosphical purpose when in actuality I really just wanted to win the money. Then again, perhaps there is no moral to this story and in the words of Homer Simpson "it's just a bunch of stuff that happened" (in my head mostly). But then again, perhaps I a merely in a belief trough and will think differently about this when the wave crests again.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Day Thirty Nine - Thoughts and Reflections on the Eve of the Fortieth Day

It is the eve of the Fortieth day of Lent. Tomorrow is Palm Sunday marking the beginning of Holy Week, the third act of Lent. I have lived (almost) through forty days of sobriety and have seven more to go. Looking back on the first and second acts I know that I have moved into a more honest space. Is it a happier space? In some ways yes because it is liberating. In some ways no, because it is easier to be happy when insulated from torment. It is an ignorant bliss, however. I have worked on TT, although not to the extent I had hoped. Still, I came to realize that these goals I set for myself can become tormentors, and that certainly was not the point of the goals in the first place. I am surprised that being sober was not at all difficult. I think my drinking was fear based and now that I have not had alcohol to insulate myself from my fear I can see that my fears were to a large extent unfounded or perhaps exaggerated is a better description. There are problems yes, but they are only problems and not whatever I feared they would be. So, what can be learned from Act One and Act Two? I have left the ordinary world of drinking and crossed the threshold into the special world of sobriety. But Lent is more than just sobriety. It is a state of mind. It is a striping down, a simplification, an approach to the bare essence. Sobriety has its role to play there because it forces me to see things (to a certain extent) as they are. To the extent that sobriety accomplishes that task, that is its importance. I cannot say that I have approached the inmost cave and faced my ordeal. There is a week to go, but perhaps that will happen after Lent. For the story of Lent is a microcosm of the macrocosm. In its third act, Christ enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (the approach to the inmost cave), he overturns the money changer's tables and is arrested and convicted (the ordeal). He is then crucified (the road home), he dies and rises from the dead (resurrection), and then returns to tell his loved ones to be not afraid of death (return with the elixir). So even if I do not face my ordeal before the end of Lent, I perhaps will construct a mental or spiritual road map.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Day Thirty Seven - Being Present

Certain spiritual practices and meditation in general emphasize the importance of "being present." The idea as I understand it is most of the time the mind tends to devote some or all of its attention to distractions. These Distractions can be both negative or positive in terms of E-Value whereas keeping the mind present can also be both positive or negative in both E-Value and HP-Value. When the mind is distracted it is not fully present and becomes identified with the distraction. In a sense, the self becomes imprisoned by the distraction. Bringing attention to the present is a way to wake the mind and liberate the self by allowing the self to observe the mind and its distractions as well as the self's direct sensations and the immediate environment. When the self observes the mind at work, it is necessarily un-bounded by the mind and is to that extent free.

I. Distractions and Awareness

A. Distractions

The following is a non exhaustive list of the many distractions which allow the self to be imprisoned by the mind:

1. Focusing on the Past

The mind can focus on the past in both negative (i.e., ways which cause pain) and positive manners (i.e., ways which do not cause pain). Negatively Focusing on the Past (“NFP”) can take one of two forms, "Regret" and "Past Envy". With "Regret," the mind remembers a moment when some action was or was not taken which in turn causes the self to experience pain. With "Past Envy," the mind longingly remembers a time that seems better than the self's present condition and the act of comparison causes pain by reinforcing the relatively negative state of the present. Both forms of NFP are wasteful in that they can accomplish nothing to fix the apparent problem rather than to punish the self for whatever perceived crime was committed in either the distant or near past. In this sense, self punishment is perhaps a way to bring about some kind of justice. However, in most cases the punishment seems to be unduly harsh and in all cases present action would do more to rectify the situation than would focusing on the past in this manner.Positively Focusing on the Past (“PFP”) can also take two forms, “Fond Remembrance” and “Relief”. “Fond Remembrance” is the mind focusing on a pleasant past experience which does not involve the present experience of pain. “Relief” is the mind focusing on negative past events which cause the self to feel a sense of relief because that particular event has passed. Although PFP is seemingly not as wasteful or destructive as NFP, it is a distraction from being present and in this sense creates a kind of prison for the mind.

2. Focusing on the Future

The mind can focus on the future in both negative (i.e., ways which cause pain) and positive (i.e., ways which do not cause pain) manners. Negatively Focusing on the Future (“NFF”) can exist in one of two forms, "Dread" and "Future Envy." With "Dread" the mind focuses on a prediction that the self will suffer some negative event in the future which results in the self experiencing pain. With "Future Envy" the mind focuses on a possible future time in which the self will live in a better situation than the present. The mind experiences pain in making this comparison because the future time emphasizes the negativity of the present. Positively Focusing on the Future (“PFF”) can also exist in one of two forms, “Anticipation” and “Hope”. With Anticipation, the mind focuses on a prediction that the self will experience a positive event in the future without comparison to the present and without causing the self to experience pain. With Hope the mind focuses on the comparison between the negative present and a positive prediction of the future from which the self can draw comfort because the negative present predicament is perceived to be finite.

Both NFF and PFF serve to distract the mind from the present. NFF causes pain whereas PFF does not. However, because both serve to distract they are both a prison for the self when the mind identifies with the distraction.

3. Desire

Desire is another form of distraction in which the mind focuses on something (typically material or intellectual) which the self does not currently possess but would like to possess. The second noble truth of the Buddha states that the cause of suffering is desire. (See: To focus on anything but the present is to desire and thus to suffer. When the mind focuses on the past it is desiring either that a previous negative moment could be undone or that a previous positive moment could be relived. When the mind focuses on the future it is desiring to avoid some future pain or to enjoy some future reward. This is desire through comparison. That is, the present moment is being compared to some past or future time. The suffering results when the present does not measure up to the object of fixation or when the object of fixation taints the experience of the present. Desire itself does not necessarily entail focusing on the past or the future. The mind can desire material or intellectual wealth independent of time. Here the mind focuses on the possession of something which is not possessed at the present moment (or perhaps the loss of a burden which is currently being carried). When the mind becomes identified with the object of desire it looses touch with the present in the same way as when the mind focuses on another time. Therefore Desire can cause both pain and imprisonment of the self.

4. Goals

There are E-Value goals and HP-Value goals. Because death is a certainty for everyone and all material possessions including the physical body are ultimately lost from the self, amassing wealth for its own sake is an E-Value goal. It is possible, however, to think of ways to amass wealth as an HP-Value goal. For example, if constant debt is a distraction of the mind, paying off the debt and amassing wealth to avoid debt in the future can be a form of liberation from the distraction except to the extent amassing wealth itself becomes a distraction. The Goal itself will always be a distraction. However, a goal may be a way to ultimately eliminate distraction even if it is a distraction in the short term.

5. Embarrassment and Pride

Embarrassment and Pride are both distractions in present time. Embarrassment is a the mind focusing on its own perceived, negative perceptions from others of the self, which in turn, causes pain. Pride is the mind focusing on its own perceived, positive perceptions from others of the self, which does not cause pain. In some situations the self can be embarrassed or proud without reference to others but this I suspect is a rare proposition. Because the mind identifies with embarrassment and pride, it looses awareness of the present moment and for this reason they are distractions.

B. Awareness

The following is a non exhaustive list of those things which bring the mind into awareness of the present moment:

1. Meditation

Meditation (as I define it) is the conscious action of bringing the mind to focus on the present moment without distraction or limitation. It is effort to the extent that the mind does not focus on the effort. That is, the mind might identify with the effort to remain focused on the present. Once it does this, it is no longer meditating but rather is in a state of distraction. The mind is limited when it focus only on one or a limited set of stimuli to the exclusion of others. Sometimes a meditator might focus on the breath or the repetition of a mantra as a means of focusing the mind. But this is merely an exercise to gain the mental discipline to keep the mind aware and undistracted.

In general, the mind’s natural tendency is to jump from one distraction to the next in a seemingly random fashion. Perhaps the mind does this because it is searching for pleasurable experiences and finding one thought to be unpleasurable skips to the next thought until that becomes unpleasurable. Perhaps the mind fears being bored and the thought of not being occupied with something must be avoided. Perhaps the mind is a machine which manufactures thoughts but has not been calibrated to do so in a disciplined manner. Whatever the reason or combination of reasons, the act of meditating is an exercise to at first train the mind to keep from being distracted and ultimately to free the self from the mind.

2. Non Meditative ways of Focusing on the Present

Certain physical experiences can also draw the mind to the present without the force of will. Among these experiences are pain, pleasure, and excitement. When the physical body experiences pain the mind will immediately focus on this experience to the exclusion of other competing thoughts depending on the severity of the pain. Although the mind is drawn to the present, it is confined to the experience of pain itself and perhaps ways that the pain can be alleviated. To this extent, the mind is imprisoned. Once the pain resolves the mind then typically becomes distracted with Relief or perhaps Dred of the pain returning. A similar notion is true with pleasure. Here the mind focuses on the pleasurable sensation and ways to prolong the sensation. When the sensation has passed the mind typically is distracted with Past Envy or Fond Remembrance. Excitement can also draw the mind into the present. For example, the experience of riding on a roller coaster draws the mind into the present by the excitement of the ride. Clearly the intent behind the experience is not to reach the end point (it is not a mode of transportation in that sense). Also, certain narcotics can also draw the mind into the present by allowing the mind to focus on whatever sensation the drug is producing. The point however is to combine being present with freedom.

To the extent any of these experiences restrict the freedom of the mind I suspect the benefits of being present are lessened. On the other hand to the extent any of these experiences can draw the mind to the present with freedom, I suspect will be beneficial.

II. What is the benefit of Being Present?

The question now arises, why is it so important that the mind be undistracted? What is gained by the work involved in attaining this state of mind?

A. Benefits of Being Present

1. Physical Benefits

There are scientific studies which support the notion that meditation does relieve the body of stress in both the short term and the long term. (See: There are certainly less scientific claims which state that meditation can bring about all kinds of immediate benefits from success in the work place to world peace. All of these benefits can be classified as E-Valuable benefits. (See:

2. Spiritual Benefits

Meditation is also the method by which some religious practitioners achieve enlightenment, liberation and / or salvation. These states, because they are spiritual, do not lend themselves to description but must be experienced first hand to really know what they are about. Not having ever experienced this state of being myself, I can only speculate as to what they are like. It would seem logical to presume that meditation detaches the self from the worries of everyday life and in this sense liberates the self from everyday life. The tenants of Christianity strongly imply that it is the everyday world which must be overcome to receive salvation. Consider this familiar saying from the Gospel of Matthew, "...I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Matthew 19:24" Here Jesus explains that wealth is a detriment to achieving salvation. The implied reason is that the generation and preservation of wealth causes the self to become focused on the material to the detriment of the spiritual. Consider also the seven traditional deadly sins of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. All these sins entail the common thread of focusing on the material to the exception of the spiritual. Just what exactly this salvation or kingdom of God entails is open to speculation. It could be an inner peace. It could be a physical location. It could be both or something entirely different.

B. Benefits of Not Being Present

Certainly it is possible to think of instances where it is beneficial to not be present in the manner described above. For example, the act of logically thinking through a problem requires a certain detachment from the present. Furthermore, if one is experiencing pain or unpleasantness (entering a dirty public washroom for example) it might also be beneficial to distract the mind from the immediate sensations. Finally, simple boredom may also be a compelling reason to distract the mind from being present.

1. Distracting the Self from other Distractions

Sometimes the mind seeks to distract the self from other distractions (e.g. repression). There are some thoughts which are too painful for the self to experience and for this reason the mind buries those thoughts and replaces them with others. Perhaps the mind creates cravings (food, alcohol, drugs etc.) to occupy or stupefy the mind in an effort to keep the self from experiencing the painful thoughts. It has also been speculated that the mind can instigate physical pain in an effort to distract the Self from painful thoughts or emotions. (See: Meditation in this instance can be helpful because it places the Self in the observer's seat. Instead of identifying with the mind's fear of these unwelcome thoughts the Self observes the mind's strategy. At this point the Self becomes removed from the pain but also is in a position to approach the source of the pain and address it on its own terms.

C. Conclusion

Being present is a state of mind which is probably not achieved regularly by most people in the modern world. The benefits of being present can be both physical and spiritual. Likewise, the detriments of continually not being present can be both physical and spiritual. Practically speaking it is unreasonable to expect a person to be constantly present because there are many distractions which bombard and accumulate in the mind over a lifetime. Perhaps for this very reason it is important to take some time to be without distraction.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Day Thirty Four - Meditation

Words are not sufficient to describe the experience that meditation brings forth. Today I saw the chattering mind at work and felt separate from it. I looked down upon it. I observed it from afar. All those thought that say I am not worthy, they are of the chattering mind. All those thought and feelings of embarrassment and annoyance, they too are off the chattering mind. Under normal circumstances I identify with this mind, I get carried away by it, I think I am it, and what it thinks and feels I think and feel. Sometimes, however, I am aware of this. And sometimes, during meditation I actively separate from this. In so doing I am able to observe it at work. I am able to see that its thoughts and feelings are not my own. And maybe, just maybe I can reprogram it to think in a new way. For the Chattering Mind thinks the way it thinks because it has learned to think that way. It never had a teacher who took it under its wing and said do this and don't do that. It learned by trial and error and was shaped by the environment it was subjected to. Now that I see this, I can also see that what was learned can be unlearned and bad habits can be replaced by good. This thing that once imprisoned and tormented me is now like a child, full possibility and liberation.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Day Twenty Nine - Entitlement and Caring About the Thoughts of Others

When a person focuses on the thoughts of others he is probably not focusing on his own thoughts. Furthermore, in order for one to be entitled to something, one must be aware of what one wants, and therefore focused on one's own thoughts. In order to be happy, one must have a proper sense of entitlement. However, an over sized sense of entitlement can turn into selfishness just as an undersized sense of entitlement can turn into unnecessary humiliation and paranoia. This system seems to work in favor of the over sized sense of entitlement, because a person with an undersized sense of entitlement will think that any attempt to enlarge his sense of entitlement will be selfish (thus knocking his sense of entitlement back down to size - for in his mind, he is not entitled to be selfish because being selfish is wrong). Conversely (I suppose) a person with an over sized sense of entitlement will think that any attempt to decrease his sense of entitlement would be unfair (for in his mind he is entitled to feel entitled).

Taking myself as an example, I have problems in my life and they all relate to a low sense of entitlement. Because of this, I tend to make decisions based on what I think others will approve of. Because I tend not to consider my own wishes (or am not even aware of my own wishes) I end up in situations where I don't want to be and become resentful, depressed etc. Up until recently I have been looking at the problem of "why am I not happy?" from the perspective of "I am not happy because I am not doing what I want to do". If this were true then the simple solution would be to start doing what I want to do. However, the problem is that I do not feel entitled to do what I want to do. So, even if I were able to do what I wanted to do I would feel guilty doing it and therefore what I wanted to do would not be a pleasurable experience.

Therefore, the solution seemingly is to start feeling entitled to do what I want to do. I am not sure how to do this but I think the answer might involve meditation and prayer. If only I had an instructor.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Day Twenty Eight - Archetypal Characters in my Dreams

There are people I have known in my life that have become archetypal representatives to me. I know this because they repeatedly appear in my dreams and always make me feel a certain way when they do. There is a family that makes me feel unsuccessful and unworthy of success from a home life perspective. There is a married couple that makes me feel overly pampered by my upbringing and therefore disqualified from having valid opinions. There is a former employer who recently appeared in a dream that made me feel unworthy and unsuccessful from a career perspective. Last night I had a dream in which members of the family and the former employer sat around a table. I was also sitting at this table. Other than that I do not have a strong recollection of what actually happened at this meeting although there is a glimpse of a scene from a Superman movie where he (or me as he I'm not sure) carries a woman from the sky and sets her down gently on the ground. The implication seems to be that I derive my sense of self worth by my perceptions of what others think of me. (I'm not sure about the Superman part). But this observation is nothing new. I've known this for a long time but have not been able to or seen a way to move past it.

I had expected the removal of crutches to provide solutions to the problems but really it has only allowed me to see them and to admit to them. In order to take something home from my Lenten Hero's journey, I must face the ordeal. The ordeal is not removing that which insulates me from my problems, but actually facing them. The removal of the insulation allows me to cross the threshold from the ordinary world into the special world where ultimately the ordeal can be faced. So the question remains, must I actively seek this ordeal or will it come to me when I am ready and the time is right?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Day Twenty Seven - Past Half Way (Definitely)

Either way you look at it, I have made it past the midway point of Lent. This of course brings me back to the "Milestones" entry I made back on March 3. In that entry I talked about how keeping track of milestones in Lent (perhaps) misses the point in that (1) it turns Lent into an endurance contest rather than a chance for transformation through self reflection, and (2) it takes the mind out of the present by focusing on the end point. So, here I am marking another milestone. Two things come to mind. First, I am aware that I have a tendency to focus on milestones so I am not doing this un-mindfully. As such, I should not become too concerned that I am doing this, for to do so would be counter productive one step further. I am doing it, I am aware of it, that's fine, and that's it. Second, am I concerned about milestones because of what I just spoke about, or am I concerned that someone reading this blog might see this entry and the entry on March 3, and acknowledge the conflict? There's no direct and immediate way to tell what my subconscious motives are. I am pretty sure whatever the motivation is, the correct response is not to dwell on that and to just continue forward. For all of that is a distraction (and a paranoid distraction at that) from what is really important. What is really important (I think) is that right now I am sober and fully awake to this present moment. What has happened in the past, what will happen in the future and thinking about what I am thinking about is not as important as what is happening, what I am doing and what I think RIGHT NOW. Now, there is one additional step to take. I had expected the removal of crutches to provide solutions to the problems but really it has only allowed me to see them and to admit to them. I suppose solving a problem requires an additional step. That additional step requires action. I don't know what that action is or will be. I am pretty sure I am awake and see things for what they are. The next step is to act.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Day Twenty Three - The Magic of Rigid Dogma

Believers in rigid dogma ("Rigid Constructionists") have to believe that they are right in order for their form of worship to be effective for them. In order to be right, however, it is necessary for all those who believe otherwise to be wrong. To people who are less rigid in the way they view religion this appears to employ a sort of doublethink whereby the believer believes their rigid dogma to be true even in the face of obvious contradictions. I have recently had a dialogue with an old friend of mine who has made the transition from Roman Catholicism to Evangelicalism. When I tried to discuss an interview I listened to with Bart Ehrman (a Biblical scholar, ex-evangelical and current agnostic) who discusses obvious contradictions between the four synoptic gospels of the Bible, he (my friend) responded that he was "disappointed" in me. He said this in reaction to my mentioning that I had listened to this interview. As far as I could tell, he did not listen to the interview but even if he did I am sure that he would have no problem rejecting its content no matter how cogent the arguments were. I found this response interesting and it got me to thinking. I have no doubt there is a power to Rigid Constructionism. I believe that this power can allow the Rigid Constructionist to experience an authentic religious experience. I do not believe, however, that it is the only way to have an authentic religious experience. But the rub is this, (I think) the only way for this mode of thought to be effective is that the believer must also believe that everyone else is wrong. Now, I imagine an advantage to being a rigid constructionist is that it can make life simpler and manageable. The disadvantage is that a Rigid Constructionist must be at odds with most other people. On the other hand, the advantage of being a Non-Rigid Constructionist is that the he need not jump through disingenuous hoops to convince himself that what he believes is actually true. This is not to say that all Rigid Constructionists jump through disingenuous hoops. I have no doubt that many believe what they believe and do not question, but I suspect there is a segment of their population that harbors lingering doubts. Of course it is also easier for a Non-Rigid Constructionist to accommodate those with differing views. The disadvantage is that life has the potential to become more complex and bewildering. Perhaps the Rigid Constructionist adopts his viewpoint as a means of controlling the world around him. For, to categorize and label something (even if you adopt the labels of another) is a form of control. Just a thought.

Link to Bart Ehrmans's Interview :

Day Twenty - Half Way (Sort of)

If Lent were 40 days long today would be the halfway point. Lent, however, is not 40 days but is 47 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Here are some passages from the Catholic Encyclopedia on the subject:


Duration of the fast
In determining this period of forty days the example of Moses, Elias, and Christ must have exercised a predominant influence, but it is also possible that the fact was borne in mind that Christ lay forty hours in the tomb. On the other hand just as Pentecost (the fifty days) was a period during which Christians were joyous and prayed standing, though they were not always engaged in such prayer, so the Quadragesima (the forty days) was originally a period marked by fasting, but not necessarily a period in which the faithful fasted every day. Still, this principle was differently understood in different localities, and great divergences of practice were the result. In Rome, in the fifth century, Lent lasted six weeks, but according to the historian Socrates there were only three weeks of actual fasting, exclusive even then of the Saturday and Sunday and if Duchesne's view may be trusted, these weeks were not continuous, but were the first, the fourth, and sixth of the series, being connected with the ordinations (Christian Worship, 243). Possibly, however, these three weeks had to do with the "scrutinies" preparatory to Baptism, for by some authorities (e.g., A.J. Maclean in his "Recent Discoveries") the duty of fasting along with the candidate for baptism is put forward as the chief influence at work in the development of the forty days. But throughout the Orient generally, with some few exceptions, the same arrangement prevailed as St. Athanasius's "Festal Letters" show us to have obtained in Alexandria, namely, the six weeks of Lent were only preparatory to a fast of exceptional severity maintained during Holy Week. This is enjoined by the "Apostolic Constitutions" (V.13), and presupposed by St. Chrysostom (Hom. xxx in Gen., I). But the number forty, having once established itself, produced other modifications. It seemed to many necessary that there should not only be fasting during the forty days but forty actual fasting days. Thus we find Ætheria in her "Peregrinatio" speaking of a Lent of eight weeks in all observed at Jerusalem, which, remembering that both the Saturday and Sunday of ordinary weeks were exempt, gives five times eight, i.e., forty days for fasting. On the other hand, in many localities people were content to observe no more than a six weeks' period, sometimes, as at Milan, fasting only five days in the week after the oriental fashion (Ambrose, "De Elia et Jejunio", 10). In the time of Gregory the Great (590-604) there were apparently at Rome six weeks of six days each, making thirty-six fast days in all, which St. Gregory, who is followed therein by many medieval writers, describes as the spiritual tithing of the year, thirty-six days being approximately the tenth part of three hundred and sixty-five. At a later date the wish to realize the exact number of forty days led to the practice of beginning Lent upon our present Ash Wednesday, but the Church of Milan, even to this day, adheres to the more primitive arrangement, which still betrays itself in the Roman Missal when the priest in the Secret of the Mass on the first Sunday of Lent speaks of "sacrificium quadragesimalis initii", the sacrifice of the opening of Lent...

From what has been said it will be clear that in the early Middle Ages Lent throughout the greater part of the Western Church consisted of forty weekdays, which were all fast days, and six Sundays.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Day Nineteen - The Vanity of Endurance

If one looks at Lent as an endurance test I think it then becomes a vanity. That is, Lent becomes something to merely strengthen the ego. Since the ego is doomed to death, the benefits of such an endeavor are likewise doomed to death and if the ego is all there is, then this is the best we can do. But if there is something more and that something survives the ego then surely Lent is about that. In this way Lent is about bringing forth fundamental change by chipping away at the ego so that the soul - the true self can emerge. Self sacrifice has its place and is not a bad thing in itself, but when it is used to build up the ego - when the self says I am good because I have done this and I haven't done that or I feel guilty because I have done this or neglected to do that, this is a vanity and serves to add another layer of ego over an already encrusted soul. It makes sense then, that self sacrifice must be done first with no thought to the outcome. It should be done for its own sake without thinking about the past or future where the ego tends to exist. This then starves the ego and allows the soul to emerge. This may explain why when Lent is viewed as an endurance test it becomes easier to lose heart and give up on the discipline, because it lacks soul (because it is ego). However, when self sacrifice is done for its own sake without a thought for the ego this perhaps gets to the heart of Lent.

In writing this it occurs to me that I am preaching. The next thought is by what authority do I preach. The answer of course is by no authority. This is merely a thought that occurred to me. It seems right to me but in truth what seems right to me might not seem right to everyone or possibly anyone. The thought now is that this second paragraph seems to be concerned with the thoughts of others and the hope that I might not be misconstrued or generally look bad. This of course is just the same kind of vanity discussed in the first paragraph. It is a vanity that I am particularly (I think) prone to. All the more reason for me to practice this discipline I suppose.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Day Sixteen - Hope

I've been buying lottery tickets lately, no more than $2 per week. The idea struck me that this is an exercise in hope. It is not that I believe that I will win the lottery. But for some reason having the lottery ticket in my wallet allows me to relax a bit. I feel like there is an iron in the fire somehow and that makes a difference. This I think is the power of hope. It is not a knowledge of iminent pay off. Nor is it a desire for the possibility of payoff. It is the possession of the possibility. I tried to explain this to someone once but I did not feel like I was getting the idea across. He kept rephrasing my idea as "buying a lottery ticket with the idea that I was going to win." That's not it. That's not it. There is a peacefulness that is achieved with hope and it does not have much to do with the end result. Faith, hope and love.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Day Fourteen - The Allure of the Altered Mental State

I remember once a long time ago a good friend asked me what was the allure of an altered mental state ("AMS"). I answered the allure was "that it brings you closer to death." Now, this answer sprang forth without much thought but I had the sense even at the time I said it that there was truth to it. I never took the statement to mean that I wanted to die but rather that a glorious mystery lay beyond the veil of death and that experiencing that mystery (or even partially experiencing it) would be wonderful. As such, achieving an AMS was an attempt on some level to approach that veil and peak underneath. Recently however, I thought about this statement in the context of the "Hero's Journey" and have come to see it in a new light. There is a stage in the hero's journey when he undergoes a symbolic death whereby he is transformed from his original flawed self and reborn as a more perfect self. It occurred to me that perhaps seeking an AMS is an attempt on some level to undergo (symbolically or otherwise) the death of the self in order that the self might be transformed and reborn into something better. Often times we seek the AMS when things are not right in the world. And perhaps the AMS has a role to play in transforming the self. But perhaps the desire for an AMS itself is a message from the deeper self that change is desired and change is needed.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Day Twelve - Reaching Out

Today is the second Sunday in Lent.  Although I have made it through two weekends (almost) remaining sober I feel somehow that I have lost my initial fervor for the Lenten process.  It's not that I want to drink because strangely that part has not been a struggle.  I thought not drinking would bring me more benefit than it has.  True, I am not depressed and my mood is more stable.  But I was hoping for some kind of epiphany which has not yet happened.  I feel tired all the time but more than that, I'm not happy.  I'm not sad either, but I am not happy.  So I must look back at the act of not drinking (interesting) and perhaps see that it is opening a door that drinking had shut.  But further action is required.  It is not enough simply to stop drinking.  I must now commit to action.  I must now walk through the door.  

Two things come to mind.  First, I am not happy with myself (again, which is not to say that I am sad with myself).  The things that make me happy with myself are things that make me feel like I have accomplished something.  They are also things that make me feel like I am reaching out to others (something that I have found increasingly more difficult as I've gotten older).  In my mind when I feel good about myself, then I feel entitled to reach out to others because then I have something of value to offer them.  By contrast, when I feel bad about myself I tend to retreat within.  This creates a negative feedback loop whereby the more I retreat within the less opportunity I have to accomplish and reach out.  The chain must be broken and it makes sense that not drinking is a logical first step because drinking has two effects that reinforce withdrawl.  First it has the short term effect of making the self comfortable with the present situation.  Because the present situation is not pleasant when not drinking I then crave the feeling that drinking provides and so I go back to it.  Second, drinking has the longer term effect of causing depression, supressing drive and creativity and negatively impacting health.  All of these effects reinforce the feeling of negative self worth.

So then, ceasing drinking has to be the first step.  I have done that and will continue to do that at least for the rest of Lent.  But now I must look for ways to reach out.  I must reach out both to myself through meditation, prayer, writing etc. and making full use of any time to myself I might have.  But I must do this in a way that is non judgemental or punishing.  I have spent a lifetime punishing myself for God knows what.  I need to let go of that tendency.  I must learn to like myself again.  And I must reach out to others.  I recognize that my impulse is to resist reaching out to others and so I must recognize this impulse when it happens for what it is and then take action to work past it.


Adendum - A thoght occurred to me that the reason I began my drinking career in the first place was to reach out to others. In my younger days I suffered from tremendous social anxiety. As a result I was withdrawn and gave people a negative vibe (I suppose) which at worst invited ridicule and bullying and at best made people feel uneasy or allowed them to overlook me. I was always able to entertain those that I felt close to but meeting new people and getting them to like me was always a challenge. Alcohol, however, freed me up socially and allowed me to be comfortable around people I did not know. This worked brilliantly for a while. However, since that time the experience has degraded. I think there are a lot of nuances to consider here, but one take home message is that I need to learn to reach out in the absence of alcohol. Until I can learn to do that the struggle will continue.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Day Ten - The Lenten Journey

In "The Writer's Journey," the author Christopher Vogler maps out 12 distinct stages that appear in most stories. These stages are (1) the ordinary world, (2) the call to adventure, (3) the refusal of the call, (4) meeting with the mentor, (5) crossing the first threshold, (6) tests, allies, enemies, (7) approach to the inmost cave, (8) the ordeal, (9) reward, (10) the road back, (11) the resurrection, and (12) Return with the Elixir. These stages are based upon the philosophy of Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung. Campbell and Jung spoke mostly about ancient myths and the common themes that run through them. Vogler took these themes and applied them to modern story writing particularly in the realm of film. These stages are archetypes - meaning that they tap into something deep within the common subconscious shared by all humans. Stories that are powerful, that move large groups of people, that are popular or commercially successful - have these qualities because they resonate with people on many levels. Likewise, they resonate with people because they touch upon the "truths" of human experience. "Human Experience" is one of those things that falls into the category of "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it." It is gnosis not episteme. That is, it is an experiential type of knowledge that cannot be readily explained to someone else who has not had a similar experience. "I can only show you the door. You must walk through it," said Morpheus to Neo in the Matrix. In the following blog entries I would like to explore these stages in greater detail and relate them to Lent because I see parallels between the two phenomena. Specifically, the person who takes Lent seriously is embarking on a hero's journey of his own. If these stages tap into truth on the story level, it must also be true that they tap into truth on the life level as well. Why else would they resonate?



I tried working through the various stages in relation to Lent, but I found that there was not necessarily enough material for each stage. I have decided to attach what I have written to this post and perhaps I will add more information if a thought occurs to me.

I. The Ordinary World

The hero's journey begins in "the ordinary world" which is the world in which the hero feels accustomed to. The journey begins when the hero feels the pull from "ordinary world" to enter the "special world". This pull is sparked by something which is not right and requires fixing about the ordinary world.

In Lent we leave the ordinary world of pre-Lent and enter into the special world of Lent. Of course, the only reason that Lent becomes a special world is because we choose to make it so. As such it is our own choice to walk through the door by taking on certain disciplines.

II. The Call to Adventure

The call to adventure is different for differnt people. For my part, the call to Lenten adventure comes from within me. It is a call telling me that my life is out of balance and I must take action to bring it back into balance. This is not an easy thing to do. It require an honest self inventory of that which has taken life out of balance and then taking action to address the situation.

III. The Refusal of the Call

In this stage of the hero's journey, the hero initially rejects the idea of embarking on the adventure. I find it difficult to relate this stage to a singular Lent, however, if I look at Lent over a lifetime I can see that in my younger years I did not treat Lent seriously. However, as I got older I realized that Lent was more than just another religious experience to make a person feel bad about themselves but rather is an opportunity to embark on a spiritual adventure.

IV. Meeting the Mentor

There are two mentors in Lent, the self and God and perhaps the two are one.

V. Crossing the First Threshold

I suppose the first weekend without alcohol was the first threshold to cross.

VI. Tests, Allies, Enemies

These are the tests that prepare the hero for the ordeal to come.

VII. Approach to the Inmost Cave

This is the preparation phase before the ordeal.

VIII. The Ordeal

This is the first major challenge that the hero has prepared for and the begining of the hero's fundemental transformation.

IX. The Reward

After defeating the oposing force of the ordeal the hero reaps the reward.

X. The Road Home

After the ordeal has been surmounted and the reward has been taken the hero often experiences a lull where his new found wisdom is tested. It is one thing to have an epiphany but quite another to internalize the lessons learned and apply them to a new challenges. Here the hero is tested once more and often the test is more dire than the ordeal. In this final and supreme test the old hero dies and the new hero is born.

XI. Resurrection

The hero is then reborn fundementally changed. He has internalized the lessons and transformative power of the journey.

XII. Return with the Elixir

The hero then returns to his starting point bringing back the lessons learned which allow him to set right that which was wrong in the ordinary world.