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Journal Thrive

What Do You Do When There is No Spoon?

Because there is no spoon. That’s it. That’s the whole post.

Yes, I am still sick and started the day with no spoons. I’m resting in the hopes of pulling a few together so I can get a couple of things done later in the day. There’s only so far that I’m willing to fall behind, after which things start to spiral out of control and get complicated. Which is a great topic for a future post, planning for failure. No today, though. I need to go lay down.

There is No Spoon

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About Berin Kinsman

Berin Kinsman is a writer, game designer, and owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.

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Journal Thrive

2020 Reminds Us How Fragile We Are

If I had to state one takeaway from 2020 so far, I’d say that it has reminded us how fragile we are. That takes different forms for different people, of course. I can already image someone jumping in to insist that he is not fragile, demonstrating how delicate and brittle his ego is.

We’ve all realized, in a myriad of ways, how much we’re at the mercy of the dangerously adolescent-minded members of this tenuous society. Those who, like a teenager, feel they’re immortal and indestructible and that the rules don’t apply to them. Sure, knucklehead, you’ll probably survive if you catch COVID-19, but I won’t. I think some covidiots enjoy not wearing a mask because it demonstrates that they have a power over life and death that many of us don’t.

This extends to the cavalier attitudes of those who don’t rely on the USPS. It’s the backbone of a lot of small businesses. Folks rely on it for a wide range of reasons. Yet people who don’t have skin in the game are making decisions that negatively impact others. At some point it doesn’t matter if they’re genuinely heartless or simply clueless; we remain at their mercy.

I don’t know what to do about this. My only hope is that empathy, compassion, and legitimate democracy come back into vogue sooner rather than later.

2020 Reminds Us How Fragile We Are

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About Berin Kinsman

Berin Kinsman is a writer, game designer, and owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.

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Journal Thrive

Maintaining Right Concentration in Difficult Times

Today I want to talk about my thoughts and opinions on maintaining Right Concentration in difficult times. To cut to the bottom line, we’re talking about meditation here. Not just the “sit quietly for a few minutes to clear my head” kind of meditation. This is about the long-term goals and affects of meditation. Frankly, that’s a far deeper subject than I can begin to tackle effectively in a short blog post. So I’m going to take a slightly different tack.

We need to learn to detach from the world while still being part of it. This means being able to see objective reality, so that when we do engage it’s to do the right things for the right reasons. This requires letting go of ego, of presupposed notions, and even of ideologies. It’s not a matter of questioning. It’s a matter of setting aside biases and filters and allowing ourselves to see things as they are.

Reality and Balance

In our current world, it means being informed without becoming obsessive. I need to know if there are a lot of new COVID cases in my area, or if it’s under control. That affects the decisions I make about going out, the risks and precautions that I will take. I want to stay aware of protests, of issues I can vote on, and ways that I can support causes I care about. Those things are important.

Yet they can’t be all-consuming. I don’t need to know every foolish thing that comes out of a politician’s mouth. I don’t need to know the precise number of coronavirus-related deaths in a particular city half a world away from me. The details of the latest atrocity committed by American police doesn’t change my belief in and desire for criminal justice reform. It’s wretched excess, and it does not benefit my physical, mental, or emotional well-being.

Right Concentration, then, can be thought of as seeing things as they are, placing them in proper context, and making informed decisions. If we did this, more people would see that not wearing a mask isn’t a political stance. That the actions of American police warrant the outrage they’re gathering. No one would put up with being lied to, blatantly and continually. In other words, we wouldn’t be in this situation to begin with.

May we all be well, happy and peaceful, may no harm come to us, may we all also have patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life.

Right Concentration in Difficult Times

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Maintaining Right Mindfulness in Difficult Times

Here we go. “Mindfulness” is such a buzzword at the moment, and that makes me disinclined to write about it. As much as I appreciate that people want to be genuinely present, and show gratitude for the things that so many people take for granted, there’s more to it. So today I want to talk about maintaining true Right Mindfulness in difficult times. Grab a snack, because this is going to be a little longer than usual.

The first thing I feel obliged to point out is that mindfulness is but one step along the Noble Eightfold Path. It is not the destination. The concept of mindfulness is complex and nuanced, and I can’t begin to scratch the surface of all that it encompasses in Buddhism in this short blog post. For practical purposes, then, I’ll narrow this down to dealing with the Five Hindrances.

What are we begin mindful of? The connection between our self and the world. What is the context for that? The things that we get attached to and hung up on that ultimately hold us back.

One

Those start with sensory desire. Seeking happiness through our senses. A lot of people see mindfulness as being aware of the sweet smells, the sound of birds chirps, and all of those things, so they can indulge in them. Those are wonderful, but those are fleeting things. To focus too deeply on them is the first hindrance.

Two

The second hindrance is ill-will. I am mindful of the neighbors banging around in the hall when I’m trying to meditate, and construction noise across the street when I’m trying to write. What I’m actually mindful of is the hostility and resentment I’m harboring because of those things. I need to accept reality as it is, address it and work with it, rather than doing nothing more than allowing anger to consume me.

Three

The practice of mindfulness is also meant to make us aware of our own mental laziness. We pay attention to things to remind ourselves that we too often don’t pay attention to things. A moment of mindfulness is meant to kick us in the behind for our lack of awareness when we’re not actively practicing mindfulness. The third hindrance is our own distraction, lack of inertia, and torpor.

Four

Another kick in the pants is that practicing mindfulness is meant to show up how restless our minds are. Being present means not worrying about that thing you need to do later. It’s not stressing over the state of the world. You’re supposed to let go of the thing the politician said yesterday, and what happened at the protest, and the problems that exist at the moment you’re being mindful. The fourth hindrance is the trouble we have calming our own minds.

Five

I know that in this very superficial overview the third and fourth hindrances sort of blur together, which makes the fifth and final hindrance more difficult to explain. It’s doubt and indecision. The simplest way I can put this is to use mindfulness itself as the example. When we lose sight of the path, and think that it would be wonderful to just dwell in this present, pleasant moment, that’s the fifth hindrance. Wondering whether we should keep going or just stop here because it’s comfortable and convenient, that decision point, that moment, that’s the hindrance.

 What Do We Do With This?

Mindfulness isn’t about seeking comfort. It’s about seeing and accepting our own discomfort, and our own flaws. Then we can do something about it. Too many people use it to (metaphorically) focus on the weather and ignore the climate. “I can feel the cool breeze, so I can focus on that and not worry about climate change.” “I’m not sick, and wearing a mask is uncomfortable, so I’m going to focus on my happiness and ignore the ongoing global pandemic.” “My interactions with police have been positive and I don’t see any overt racism in my spaces, so BLM must be a bunch of whining troublemakers”.

Right Mindfulness means not only seeing the bigger picture, but recognizing your place in it. Your attitudes, you privilege, your accountability. Then taking action based on that recognition.

Right Mindfulness in Difficult Times

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Maintaining Right Effort in Difficult Times

Today I want to talk about my meditations on maintaining Right Effort in difficult times. This one is paradoxically the hardest to explain and the easiest to understand. The original texts talk about wholesome and unwholesome states, so I want to break it down. Let’s wander down the Noble Eighfold Path!

Having Right Effort means, to use verbiage more familiar to Western audiences, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Yes, I’m a Buddhist, but my background is in Christian theology, so you need to forgive my occasional indulgences into quoting scripture. Right Effort means not allowing yourself to succumb to thoughts, emotions, and intentions that are bad for you. Make an effort to do things that are good for your physical and mental well- being.

For me, this year has been a time filled with anger. We should be angry. Inaction and ineptitude is costing lives. Justice has been denied to many for far, far too long. People have suffered in silence while their abuser walk around free from consequences. The key is to not allow that anger to consume you.

Get off of social media. I know that’s my personal dead horse to beat. Spend more time devoted to self-care. Right Effort is not feeding the trolls. It’s not getting sucked into the fear and hopelessness that dominates the zeitgeist right now. It’s making sure that you’re rested, and properly nourished, so that you’re able to do the things that are necessary, and effective, and truly impactful.

May we all be well, happy and peaceful, may no harm come to us, may we all also have patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life.

Right Effort in Difficult Times

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