Did you say “I am trying to meditate, but it’s not working?”

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Because there are different teachers we follow, we may have different ideas about meditation. I was taught meditation by a Tibetan Buddhist on a commune in Vermont. For many years I struggled against meditation, declaring that it doesn’t work.

Working is not what meditation is supposed to do. Meditation allows you to clear your mind of the thousand screams of a drunken monkey and experience stillness, if only for that brief second when you become aware of your mind wandering and return to your mantra.

This is not work in the traditional sense. It can feel like work. For me it sometimes feels like I am running through the mansions of my mind turning off light switches. But if I turn away from even that thought, it begins to feel a lot more like nothing at all.

This morning I chose the words of Saint Francis, “Let me be a vessel for your peace” in lieu of my abbreviated mantra ‘Shanti’ which is peace in Sanskrit. The additional words caused me to worry that my hands needed to be more like cups than flat palms. It was harder to turn off the light switches. But it still felt lovely.

I heard a teacher say last night that she was tired of hearing people tell her that meditation doesn’t work. I thought for sure she would point out that meditation is a practice that is beyond “working.” Instead she said that meditation only works if you do it every day exactly the way she instructs, and if you are willing to pay 40.00 on her website you can learn exactly how to meditate.

I did say that there are many different teachers out there. To this one, I would like to say, “no, thanks.” Meditation, for me, is simply sitting quietly for a while, and concentrating on a single mantra/concept (peace is my personal favorite) and when I find my mind wandering away from the core concept in any way, I gently, very gently, shut down the thought stream and return to the mantra. And that’s it.

I don’t get to do it every day. That is fine. Doing it doesn’t cause things to magically get better. I don’t expect an answer to this type of prayer. Meditation is not a spiritual practice which rewards you in material ways. It is a material practice that rewards your spirit.

At least that’s how I see it.

Evidence of Disappearing Middle Class

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The weekly number of new unemployment claims has been hovering around 325-350K. The monthly non-farm payroll number is usually about 100-150K.

What do these numbers tell us? 1.4 million Americans are losing their jobs every month, and only 150,000 are being hired for non-farm jobs. The rest are either picking oranges or competing for the 100-150K jobs that open up.

The middle class is losing over 1 million people per month. Where else do we see signs of the shrinking American middle class?

Have you been to Costco on a weekend lately? You can shop on a Saturday at noon without bumping into another shopper. I used to wear hiking boots to Costco to prevent my ankles from getting bruised by the sea of careless shopping carts.

Staples is about to shutter 225 stores in North America. Maybe we don’t need as many office supplies because offices are half empty, and small businesses, the lifeblood of Staples, have nearly vanished.

The middle class used to be made up of well paid union employees. They were displaced by overseas workers who could buy a house for what the union employees were paid in a single day.

Enter the computer savvy knowledge workers. The knowledge workers are being displaced as well…due to the telecommunications revolution reducing the cost of moving knowledge work.

If Americans aren’t building automobiles or providing customer service, where are they getting their money? The short answer–they aren’t. There was an awful lot of money here during The 20th century. We spent it all in China, and there is no one left to buy the stuff we built overseas.

Wealth is doing what it does best. It is growing in the hands of the wealthy and shrinking in every other social class. Even the rich are getting poorer, and only the “super rich” are watching their money expand.

I am presenting a problem without a solution, which is not a good business practice. I have a pretty good imagination, but I haven’t been able to dream up an answer to this massive and ever increasing gap. Historically, this was only reversed by violent revolution. When even the rich are poor, so poor they can’t afford to renew their Costco membership, will they riot?

I do not support or condone violence. We are an extremely bright generation of enlightened individuals. One of us will figure out how to generate new wealth for the masses. One route is to reduce our need for non-discretionary spending. Solar power can charge our electric cars. Oil barons won’t get our cash. That frees up money to spend on home improvements. Contractors can’t bee moved offshore,

Any other ideas?

Preparing for monotony

Our house, according to numerology, ‘thrives on monotony.’

I avoid routines like the plague, so it is a cold splash of water to realize that the house we bought demands a monotonous routine. I can avoid monotony, or embrace it. Hiring a gardener, a maid, and a pool boy reduces some of the monotony, but it is too expensive. Our sprinkler system needs repair, so even the lawn and garden require regular patterns of water. We decided to let the lawn die. We are in a drought, after all.

Because a huge chunk of formerly disposable income is going towards a mortgage, we also have to cook at home and bring our lunches to work instead of dining out. The dog doesn’t have a front yard any more, so she requires daily walks, and we can’t skip them.

Routine has always felt like a prison cell to me, but the flip side of that perception is the notion that routine can build discipline.

This home has a lot to teach me. My response to monotony is a strong desire to earn more money, so I can outsource monotony. My partner calls this ‘lazy.’ I just want more time to do unusual things, like a hike in the wilderness or writing the sequel to my novel. Monotonous routines seem to get in the way. I may need to change my perception, or I may just need to earn a lot more than I do.

What are your thoughts? Please comment.

Sweeping the Dust On the Pig Farm

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On the LeadershipFreak blog, one user shared that his first job was on a pig farm.  There was a lot of down time for the new recruit between feedings.  If the owner of the farm dropped by, the other farm hands would tell him “go sweep dust so you can look busy.”

Are you sweeping dust on your pig farm?  I know I have done this in the past, before I became more engaged and interested in making life better for the people working for my employer.

Today, instead of sweeping dust, I take down time as a fantastic opportunity to turn off the lights, close the door, and meditate for fifteen minutes.

I use downtime to recharge my batteries in a number of ways.

I do research related to the work I know I will be doing in the future.  I usually can find some online training for free that will help me be a better manager…

I do an awful lot of visiting with people to see if they need my help with anything.  Nine times out of ten, I will stay busy by helping them with something urgent, that has more relevance than sweeping dust.

If you have anything you are procrastinating, don’t sweep dust.  If your employer has overlooked you and left you twiddling your thumbs, ask if you can help someone else.

There will always be dust on a pig farm, no matter how hard you sweep.

The School for the Blind

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In a small Indian village, there was a school for the blind.  The students there had seldom ventured far from the school, for they were in an area that was surrounded by scrub and chaparral, and they did not like to wander into thorn bushes.  The teachers were all excellent, and did a good job of preparing the young minds to read braille, to cook for themselves, and to eventually learn to become independent.

One hot summer day, the school was closed so that the teachers could go for a conference in the nearby city.  The teachers had to walk several miles into the closest village, where they would catch a bus to the city, returning by nightfall.

That day, an elephant came out of the brush and wandered up to the school.  The students were outside working in the garden, irrigating the fields of lentils and potatoes.  Suddenly, the giant creature approached the blind students, who had never encountered an elephant, and stopped.  The students’ fear gave way to curiosity, and they began to explore the elephant with their hands.

One student found the trunk, and said “This creature may be a snake, but its skin is much thicker, and it blows hot air into my face.”

Another student reached the tusks of the magnificent creature.   He said “I don’t know for sure this is a living thing, for it seems to be made of some sort of soft, slippery stone.  It pulls away from you and cannot be held safely”

Another student felt the front leg.  “This creature is big around as a tree, it is not a snake, and it is not a rock.  And if you are not careful, the creature can crush you.”

One student felt the ears and said “This creature is thin and flat.  It is not snake-like, nor is it a tree, and it is definitely not made of stone.  If you hold onto the creature, it will swat you in the face.  It is not dangerous.”

Another student held the tail and said “I tend to agree with our first colleague that the creature is like a snake, but it does not blow hot air, it blows a foul wind, and occasionally drops heavy turds on your head.”

Yet another student was unable to find the creature, and told them all that it simply didn’t exist, they were all wrong.

Each was so convinced they were right, that they began to argue with the others, and focused on the differences in their description of the creature, rather than the similarities.

The youngest student came forward and held the tail, using it to climb the elephant and came to rest on its back.  He rode the elephant away and left the students behind quarreling about the nature of the beast.

Had the other students let go of their part of the elephant, and explored different parts, they may have eventually realized they were all describing many aspects of a single being.  Such is the Lord.

Had a teacher with vision returned before the creature left, she too might have been able to awaken the students to the truth of the great creature.  Such is the Lord

The child rode away because he was brave enough to climb the mountainous beast and hold on, allowing it to take him to another destiny. Such is the Lord.

Sometimes a Whisper Can Be Just Like a Fart

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A lot of us work in cube farms.  We are surrounded by other co-workers, and we have very little privacy.  Every conversation is heard, and every person coming and going to see you at your cubicle is subject to the scrutiny of your neighboring cube farmers.

I am not sure if Emily Post planned for this type of work environment or not, but I haven’t really seen any formal rules about how to conduct oneself when surrounded by neighboring workers.  There is one I would like to add to the list, if it is not already written down.

Please, do not whisper while speaking to a visitor, and please do not whisper on the phone.  Much like a fart, it is best to excuse oneself politely and leave the room to have a conversation that you don’t want others to overhear.

Whispering is often just a harmless activity between friends, but at work, it can lead your co-workers to believe any of several things:

1. You have something you’re not sharing

2. You don’t feel the people around you are entitled to hear what you are saying

3. You may be gossiping about others within earshot

4. You don’t have the courtesy to take a private conversation to a private place

5. You indicate that the person receiving the whisper is somehow more worthy of hearing what is being said

I read on a fellow blogger’s post today (Leadership Freak) that we should use the “In The Room” rule when talking about others.  The rule states that you should not say anything about a person that you would not feel comfortable saying if they were in the room with you.  If you are whispering, you may be breaking that rule.

You may also be discussing your herpes test results with your friend, or telling someone that your sister has been locked up again…but whether these conversations are in person or over the phone, they really need to be taken out of the cubicle and into a more private environment.  Just like a fart.

When I have a whisper-worthy statement to make, I usually say to my co-worker “I need a cup of tea, would you like to join me?”  If it is on the phone, I tell the person that I need to call them back from my cellular phone and take the conversation outside.  That shows respect for the people I work with, and prevents people from feeling that I have a low opinion of them.

Is Waze a good example of Web 3.0?

No one is entirely sure yet what will constitute Web 3.0.

According to the slightly unreliable Web 2.0 website Wikipedia, there are several theorems and proposals put forth by “web experts” and futurists.

Two that seem unlikely and/or unpleasant suggested either that it would be
A. A return of experts to the web, quashing unreliable data and insinuating their right to charge for reliable information.
Or
B. Something involving a meta verse of 3d imagery and holo decks using live cams placed around the world and a few more things too Trekkie for me to understand, but definitely candidates for causing widespread migraines and nervous breakdowns.

The thing that stuck out for me was the notion put forth by John Smart that it was going to be an evolution of geo-social apps like four square. Combined with that would be the notion, attributed to Conrad Wolfram, that it would come when the web begins generating its own data and catering to the user based on algorithms that indicate what you like.

Waze is a geosocial app, in real time 3d, that uses all the data out there about how fast cell phones are moving to generate the fastest route from point a to point b. it needs no algorithm to understand what you like, because it is universally assumed that every user wants the same thing…more time at their given destination and less time in traffic. It quickly learns the locations you travel to, and also learns from you if you stray off it’s suggested course and still get home on time.

Waze users can flag a speed trap or an object in the road, or an accident. This, sadly, may lead to yet another accident. Other users can give a little thumbs up to indicate that the tip was valid, or indicate that the nuisance ahead is no longer present.

Driving hazards aside, Waze is the most revolutionary app to arrive since google maps. Thanks to the network effect, it gets increasingly more astute and tuned in to your driving needs as time goes on.

I have yet to flag an incident in the roadway…mainly for fear of becoming one myself in the process. Gen Y folks are probably more comfortable taking their eyes off the road…I suspect they are the most dutiful citizens in Waze World.

Rather than try to outdo or crush Waze, I hope the would-be competitors out there will figure out how to create modules that you can install to narrow the purpose of your drive. Today at 2pm in the greater Los Angeles area 6,350 people were on Waze, all with a common goal of reducing their time spent in traffic. What if you could find all the Waze users who need a lunch date? Okay, that already exists in a static format (I am thinking of gay apps like Scruff, Grindr, and Growlr). But maybe it can integrate with your home security system and advise you to return home and call 911 because a burglar is stealing your iPad.

I don’t think I can single handedly dream up what Web 3.0 will be, but I think Waze is the first glimpse of the new future into which we are rapidly speeding.

Letting my freak flag fly

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Enough already with the JC Penney permanent press pants and the Brooks Brothers no-iron button downs.  I’m in my flip flops, a tank top, and a pair of shorts.  My belly is hanging over the waistline.  Not just literally, but figuratively as well.

I am a musician, a poet, a writer, and then I do a ton of business-related stuff all week long.  It is exhausting, but it pays the mortgage.

Today I’m dedicating my post to two works of art that actually made it out into the world and deserve mention.

My novel, 5150, which is available as an e-book on Amazon, iBooks, Nook, and a bunch of other places thanks to Smashwords.  http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/366295

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And the CDBaby helped me get the album “Plow This Land” by the Acres out onto iTunes, which was no small chore.

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/theacres

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There are more fancy ways to show you these great works of art besides a mere link to an external URL, but I have yet to figure out how to make them work on here.  They just look like gibberish.

I encourage you to explore them.  Samples are free.  If you like what you read or hear, tell a friend about it.  I’m feeling like I have been reduced to shameless self-promotion, so I will stop here.


 

Aside

Honoring both left and right brain activities

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Thomas Stearns Eliot was a banker and a poet.  He had two sets of friends, and each entered his house through a separate door.  His house, much like the human brain, was divided into left and right hemispheres.  He welcomed his creative friends to his house through the right door, and his banking cronies always came in through the left.  Never the twain did meet.

My three year stint at USC’s Marshall School of Business was a powerful experience.  I likened it to a “mind fuck” at times, but what it really did was put me back in touch with the left side of my brain, where logic and reason reside.  I don’t much like it over there, but it’s a good place to go when living through a great depression.

To honor my full capabilities, I have divided my blog into two main categories: Creativity and Business.  Right brain creative stuff and Left brain logic.  Dunkablog will now contain posts about either – and occasionally, such as this little treatise, it will cover both.  Having recently published my book again in a new edition, and also succeeded in getting the Acres to appear in the iTunes Music store (at long last), I will need to spout off about my creative endeavors as often as I write about the calculating world of business.

Unlike TS Eliot, however, you may enter through either door, and the parlor on the left is free to comingle with the salon on the right.

Happy reading!i

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