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What is Meditation for?

ZenWhen you sit quietly, and focus on your breathing, people want to know what it is you are actually doing. I hear and read a lot of answers, mostly trying to explain that you are not doing anything, that this “non-action” is good for your mind. It strengthens your mind, improves concentration, lowers blood pressure, relaxes you – all with practice. And that is all true, these are side effects of sitting quietly and trying desperately hard not to think. As you would imagine. If you’ve ever tried it, meditation is actually really bloody hard to do. Keeping your mind quiet for even 10 seconds is really hard, let a lone ten minutes. I’ve been practicing for years and some times I can’t make it more than a few minutes. Your legs start to hurt, you wonder about how long you’ve been doing it (like it was laps in a pool or something), and your mind hates it.

But none of these things is what should be focused on. Yes, breathing is important, yes acknowledging thoughts as they come in and then letting them go is important, clearing your mind etc, etc. But those are just what to do to get clear. In Zen meditation, the true goal you are looking for is to make your self expansive. To feel your self reach out to everything around you, starting small and getting big enough to encompass¬† everything… ever. This is not about blood pressure. It is about trying to let go of your ego for just a second, which is all it takes. To think so vividly about everything else in the universe at the same time, to completely forget yourself. When this happens, and you leave it completely behind, you forget you are you. The thing about the universe, or God, or Krishna, or whatever you want to call “everything”, is that it is there. And you can imagine this: It is there, also sitting quietly behind the scenes, closing it’s eyes as tight as it can, and trying to imagine your life in every detail.¬† It is imagining it is you, really hard. And that’s what you are. If you can relax your mind enough, that you can forget your brilliant puppet show, you might be able to open one eye and peak at the whole show. And when you do, it is the most awful, brilliant, scary, loving, amazing, terrible, and beautiful thing you will have ever seen and felt in your life.

It is also really good for blood pressure.

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How to Make a Chirstian

So I am probably something between a Buddhist (romantically leaning on Zen) and a Humanist. These are philosophies and decisions I have spent working on for years, based on learning, experiences and interest. I don’t ever think they’re right, nor do I “believe” in them, they just work on a more intuitive level for me. Zen as both a nice rational component for my philosophical side, as well as the absurdity intuitive side that I have experienced and couldn’t explain with a thousand blog posts, so I won’t. But this isn’t about me really, it’s about the way I think of my “religion” or view of the universe. I learn about it in a framework of Zen, apply to my life as best I can, learn more about it, and rinse, wash, repeat. Something that has always frustrated me about Christians is their amazing lack of knowledge about their own religion. You can’t have a discussion about Leviticus vs Mathew with most evangelicals, because they know nothing about them (unlike my non-theist self who spent a lot of time in bible study.) This is because they don’t KNOW their religion, they BELIEVE in it. Most people don’t need to know anything about something you strongly believe in, bbecause it takes effort, and most people are stupid and lazy.

Recently I met someone quite strange. Someone who had a Jewish mother and a secular/spiritual-ish father, who had decided to become a Christian. This is not someone who went to prison, or was “saved”, but just a choice. Not only did she choose to become a Christian, she picked Catholicism as well. What is so interesting about her idea of Catholicism is that it is a free, and late choice. Looking for a spiritual home, she picked the largest franchise.

Why I find this interesting is this: It is similar to a person deciding to learn guitar or a new language. When I studied Buddhism, it was all new to me. I didn’t “believe” in it, I took the relative parts that made sense to me and built my own ideas and interpretations around them. This is common with Westerns who follow non-traditional spiritual paths, we don’t have a choice – we have to learn from scratch. She is doing the same with Christianity. Almost everyone I know, or have met who is a Christian grew up with it, or were “saved” (which is reasonably insulting, because it implies that I’m “damned”.) Even if they were “born again”, they had a childhood-based concept that they could “re-believe” in. She does not. A bible story is new to her, every time. Each new concept can be evaluated with an adult and rational mind. If everyone learned about Christ this way, Christians would be more interesting, less dogmatic and probably, largely better Christians.

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Christian Cookbook

The secret ingredient is love. As mentioned in the sacred cookbook:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten burrito, that whosoever eatith in him should not perish, but have moderate to severe diarrhea.
– John 3:16

Delight yourself in the lard and it will give you the desires of your heart.
– Puck 37:4

This is the daiquiri Mario has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
– Batali 118:24

In the beginning was the Rice, and the Rice was with Vinegar, and the Rice was Good.
– Morimoto 1:1

A typical Italian (but not-Catholics-they’re-not-real-Christians) course might look like:

  • Salvation Taco Salad with Sanctimonious Salsa
  • Devilishly Anti-Christ Antipasto
  • Everlasting Life Lasagna with Defense of Marriage Acini di pepe
  • Holy Trinity Tautology Tiramisu
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Sharia Law

Saying that Muslims should not be able to practice Sharia law is kind of the same is saying that a priest who hears a murder confession in the confessional should go to jail if they do not turn evidence. As a society, we seem to feel that it is reasonable for a priest to not report crimes because they are protected by some sort of confessional Hippocratic protection, which they don’t. The idea that we (read Tennessee), need to pass a law stating that it it illegal to practice Sharia is even more bizarre than passing a law saying that a layman (read priest) has some sort of legal status in the judicial system. How can you tell if someone is NOT eating bacon because they don’t like it or if they don’t want to break their religious laws.

The point is that our laws, the laws of the state, no matter how stupid they may be, supersede any other law. Passing a law to say that one type of law based on imaginary men in the sky is more illegal that another fiction-based system of law is so laughable that I’m surprised some of our legislators heads haven’t exploded due to an overdose of irony (which they probably think is similar to goldy or silvery.)

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