One Step, One Breath

I could sense that it was time to leave the trail. I had been sensing this for some time, and  it was not easy to accept. The realization was composed of more than just reaching another “wall”. Many times on this journey, along the Appalachian Trail, I had reached the “wall”. It was the point where every ounce of my energy, physical, mental, emotional, and psychic, was tested and focused only on taking one step, then one breath. The “wall” was the point where I could not see continuing, yet I could not conceive not continuing. At that point, one takes one step, one breath, and pauses. I had many important realizations on the trail, but the realization I was facing was different.

One of the most important realizations I had came early in the hike, and it was as difficult as it was simple. I realized that my hike was not to be compared to anyone else’s hike. To release myself from this comparison, and the consequent evaluation and judgement, was a huge and important lesson. My hike was about myself, and no one else. The saying, often heard along the trail, is so apropos: “Hike your own hike!” A young person I had met summed up hiking styles well: “On the days I walk 20 miles, all I remember is walking. On the days I walk 8 miles, I remember where and what I had for lunch, I remember the views, I remember the fire I built in the evening.” One of my most important realizations was that I’m an 8-mile-per-day type hiker, and I wasn’t going to be – nor should I compare myself to – a 20-mile-per-day hiker.

It was true, I was burned out. I was hungry, tired, cold, wet, lonely, and generally weary. But the realization to leave the trail was more than all those challenges. I was losing heart for the trail. I was losing heart because I had fulfilled my purpose for the hike, at least for the season. The hike had been challenging, most of all it was an internal journey, a probing of my psyche. It was a mindful exercise in getting to know, and make peace with, myself and my own limits.

The following quote sums up well all the season’s realizations:

“Anything is one of a million paths. Therefore you must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if you feel you should not follow it, you must not stay with it under any conditions. To have such clarity you must lead a disciplined life. Only then will you know that any path is only a path and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to do. But your decision to keep on the path or to leave it must be free of fear or ambition. I warn you. Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary.

“This question is one that only a very old person asks. ‘Does this path have a heart?’ All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long, long paths; but I am not anywhere. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.

“Before you embark on any path ask the question: ‘Does this path have a heart?’ If the answer is no, you will know it, and then you must choose another path. The trouble is nobody asks the question; and when a person finally realizes that they have taken a path without a heart, the path is ready to kill them. At that point very few people can stop to deliberate, and leave the path. A path without a heart is never enjoyable. You have to work hard even to take it. On the other hand, a path with heart is easy; it does not make you work at liking it.”
― Carlos Castaneda, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge

The Wind, the Water, and the Whippoorwill

I once officed next to a man who was an outdoor enthusiast. Our “Holy Grail” was to find a place, or places, where there were no man-made sounds. We often shared our experiences along this line, the pursuit is not an easy one in this day and age.

Having endured and survived 10 days in the 100 mile wilderness, I came close to this ideal several times. The sound of a distant airplane was often the only intrusion to be found. However, it occurred to me that there is a parallel pursuit that may be just as worthy. Is it possible that, no matter what the external noise may be, there is a part of the human psyche that can remmmmain undisturbed?

This is an interesting question which begs a bit of clarification. The pursuit of an environment or location that is void of man-made sound is an external endeavor. The search for a mind space that is free and undisturbed is an internal undertaking. For a very brief few seconds, the two came together in a memorable moment that I’d like to share.

When I’m out backpacking, I like to get an early start on the day. Usually I get up at the first light of dawn, perhaps before. This is a habit that I inherited, I’ve often wondered if it’s genetic. My best walking for any given day happens before noon. During the early morning hours it’s a true blessing to listen to the forest come alive, from the sound of the first bird to the chorus that follows.

On one particular morning, while making coffee, I noticed that – externally – it was a clear moment when there were no man-made sounds. The moment was delightful, and I savored it, but then something happened that made it even more remarkable. A whippoorwill flew into a tree near me, and started her song. To those who have never heard a whippoorwill, it’s something that – once heard – is never forgotten. These remarkable birds have been part of my outdoor experience since early childhood.

At the moment the whippoorwill started to sing, I sank deeply into the present moment. I felt the cyclical spinning and grinding of the thought process of my mind come to a halt. When the internal chatter stopped, and I focused fully on the whippoorwill, I felt like I was swirling and submerged into a deep inner stillness. In that stillness, I heard the wind gently brushing past my ears, and the water of the stream flowing behind me. The song of the whippoorwill was before me, and – for a brief moment – I was able to completely and thoroughly match my inner world with the outer. It was a precious moment of clarity, a profoundly peaceful and sacred experience. I’m convinced that this internal space is in each of us, our birthright, the door to who we are.

As I’ve moved on from that moment, I’ve come to understand more fully what it means to let go of the inner chatter and remain in the present moment. While I know that I can’t always have the wind, the water, and the whippoorwill with me in every moment, I can have the clarity of what they showed me. Access to the experience isn’t always readily accessible, sometimes I must consciously make the effort. However, I know where it is and how to get there. A path, once trodden, is then known. Also, I don’t need to go back and retrace the 100 mile wilderness to find the still, peaceful place inside myself.

The Zero Day

Bella and I came to an excellent stopping place in a remote location atop a hill, and took a “zero day”. In hiking circles, this means that there is no mileage made, it’s a day of rest and recuperation. Even though we were still working into our “trail legs”*, we needed – and deserved – the respite. For me, for us, it was also what our meditation circle calls a “Day of Mindfulness”.

We camped on a large balded rock atop a hill that overlooked  a lake. We were miles from the nearest paved road, but there were occasional – actually rare – people on horseback or fishing. The immediate area, about 30 yards in diameter, was clear and relatively barren, except for the occasional tree root that scraped to find even the tiniest repository of earth. A small puddle, near the center of the sandstone landscape, held water from the recent rainfall. There was a woodpecker overhead hammering out his existence, and in the distance is the sound of water flowing through the dam, in vast abundance. We knew the abundance of the water intimately, because we’d spent our days walking in it, enduring it both on the ground and from the sky. It was a magical experience.

The day also had an overtone of fasting, unplanned yet welcome. As we’d negotiated trail life, learning it’s nuances, the art of getting and having enough to eat had been one of the many lessons to be learned. Both Bella and I had been extremely hungry at times, due to the tremendous demand made on us as we learned to endure trail life.

I decided to take this day as a zero because we were a short (6 mile) walk from our resupply rendezvous, which will be the next day. We’d be back on the trail at first light, which is typical. The spot where we stayed is one of my favorite places to camp, both for the environment it provides, as well as the solitude. As I sat there, wiling away the hours of the day with menial tasks, the stillness of the lake amidst the forest was nearly overwhelming. It called one to a natural, effortless, meditative state. There was absolutely no rush to finish anything, or to be anywhere, other than the very here and now. The day happened at its own pace as I filtered water, repaired and cleaned gear, brushed Bella, and dodged the occasional rain drop. In the distance the sound of an occasional passing train reminded us that civilization marcheed on, waiting for us when we inevitably emerged from the forest.

In my city life, it takes effort to realize and remain attuned to that which came without effort. Even though the meditative state, a state of joyfulness and equanimity, can be realized anywhere, it flowed naturally, in that place. It was a state of fullness that neither required, nor wanted, anything other than itself. It called, as well as sprang from, us, from within and without. Just to be in the moment, within the day, with no requirements, and asking nothing in return.

*The term “trail legs” refers to a physical state. It means that the hiker has become accustomed to walking every day. It takes about 2-4 weeks to get into shape to the degree that one can carry the pack, negotiate the trail, and walk several miles each and every day. In essence, it comes down to what Nike says: just do it.

Mindful Eating

I recently began to suspect that I have a food allergy. The symptoms have been present for several years, but it seems that things like this left unchecked never get better with age. So, as always, the first step toward a solution was to “Google it”. The results alone were inconclusive, but there was enough information to let me know that I was on the right track. Also, I was able to determine a way to proceed.

There are a couple of broad routes to take if one suspects food allergies. The first is to go to an allergist and get tested. When my natural mistrust of the medical establishment combined with the penchant for personal control, I took the other route. This option has a couple of approaches: a) eliminate foods one by one until the symptoms disappear, or b) eliminate everything but the most basic food, and add things into the diet until something sets off the allergy. Option “a” took forever, and had no tangible results. So I was left with option “b”.

Green leaf salad with salmon and bread.
Green leaf salad with salmon and bread.

It seemed like it took forever to reduce my diet to some very basic elements, yet get a full plate of nutrition. At times it seemed like I was on “celery & water”. I went for many days, even weeks, eating just a few types of vegetables and a small amount of organic, grass-fed beef. I also started to fast one day per week and use a natural salt water laxative. Finally, after my system started to flush toxins, the symptoms of the allergy began to fade.

As part of the process, it was important that I not only limit what I ate, but how much I ate. I needed to cut back on snacks and other non-essential consumption. It’s amazing how much we tend to eat that isn’t necessary. I realized that a lot of the food we eat is for emotional reasons, and it’s a long way from actual physical sustenance. We tend to stuff ourselves over anything that’s uncomfortable: anger, stress, disappointment, etc. The list can be as long or short as one wants.

An Unexpected Realization

There came an interesting moment in the process when I was several weeks into the restricted regimen, and I went into an emotional bind. I forget exactly what the situation was or what caused it. However, I do remember sitting at the table, and an entire procession of mental images went through my mind, much like a parade of options. I thought: “I could eat this, or that would be tasty, or what if I put this mix together.” It continued for a few minutes, one image right after the other. Each mental concept had an attendant physical craving. In other words, first came a mental picture, then – after some indeterminate period of time – there was an associated physical craving. My mouth watered, and I could almost taste the food during this process. Deep from within my gut my body said “I WANT IT NOW”.

Fortunately, the pain and discomfort of the allergic reaction was greater than the luxury of acting on these food cravings. Then, the next part was what I consider to be the most important. I was able to see this entire process simply as a process, a parade of mental images that were accompanied by emotional cravings that were habitually followed by commitment to physical action. And when I took no action at all, just let the process go, it all went away. Truthfully, this phase was one of liberation. I never had an upset stomach or indigestion on this reduced diet. I even learned how to be satisfied with a glass of water.

Mindfully Speaking

The core realization of this process came as an unexpected bonus. As I was reducing what and how much I ate, there was a high degree of planning and thought that went into the process. Additional thought was focused on the actual practice of eating. I became much more aware of not only what and how much I ate, but how I ate it. I started to eat very slowly and with deliberate intent. I realized that the amount of attention I was giving to the entire process was indeed Mindful Eating. It’s paid off, too. I no longer have the allergic reactions that I once suffered. I’m in the process of rebuilding my diet to see what my body can tolerate and what it doesn’t want to deal with. The process and outcome has been rewarding in several ways, notwithstanding the frustration and discomfort that brought it about. It’s been a journey, one that was long overdue.

Mindful Walking Meditation

Stone stairs set into a rock crevice.
Stone stairs set into a rock crevice.

As  a teenager, I had to work hard to stay ahead of my dad. One of my biggest limitations was that I thought of him as being dumb and slow. Later, after I left home, I was quickly amazed at how smart he actually was. However, on the other hand, as a young and deft adolescent, I had youth and agility on my side. There were a few times that these faculties worked in my favor.

Once I got a car, dealing with parental curfew became the challenge. It was extremely difficult to arrive home at a wee hour of the early morning (or late night, depending on your viewpoint) and slip into the house undetected. The problem was that my dad was an extremely light sleeper. The slightest unexpected movement or noise in the house would wake him.

I had the course well plotted. I would cut the engine of the car up the block and coast into the drive, slow and stealthy. The next challenge was to slip in the back door, which was right next to his bedroom window. The only hope here was that he was in a period of deep sleep, or had the window lowered. But I managed to pull it off, and with a little practice I could do it regularly.

The final challenge, once inside the house, was to move through the place without making a disturbance. This part was extremely difficult. But my dad didn’t realize that he himself had given me the key. I once heard him tell that what woke him was that he could feel the movement of air on his face. So, armed with this knowledge, all I had to do was move in such a fashion that I didn’t disturb the air. So that’s what I taught myself to do: walk so slowly and attentively that I did not disturb even the air in the house. And it worked. I learned how to slip past him in the slowest and most stealthy manner. I didn’t realize what I had done, but this was my first introduction to the practice of Mindful Walking Meditation. I’m not sure exactly when or how he figured me out, but one day he turned to me and said “you can walk like an Indian!” I smiled smugly in the moment of triumph.

In the Plum Village tradition of Buddhism, walking meditation is stressed equally with sitting meditation. This is a new dimension for me, one that’s taken a while to get used to. It’s finally starting to settle, and I’ve noticed a difference in a few areas of my life. One thing that’s improved is my balance. When doing yoga, I’ve always been more than “balance-challenged”. I’ve been “balance-retarded”. I can see this beginning to change for the better.

Also, my walks in the forest have taken on new dimensions. I’m starting to notice more animals and plants, mostly by the expanded awareness that’s settling in. It’s a good practice for those who find sitting meditation difficult or physically challenging. The objective is to be fully present, noticing all the sensations and movement within the body as well as all the elements outside the body, such as sounds, movement of air, smells, etc. Also, it’s convenient to do anywhere, almost any time – at the park, while waiting in line, etc.

This provides me with one more reason to be thankful to my dad as I look back on the time we spent together.

Walking Meditation

Gathering the Mind

I just finished a weekend retreat that was conducted in a formal, traditional Zen Buddhist fashion. It’s called Sesshin, which literally translates to “gathering the mind”, or “gathering the body-mind”.  Gratefully, the endeavor did exactly that.

It would seem odd that a person would want to engage such austere practice. With the myriad ways to escape one’s stressors, why in the world would a person want to go someplace and meditate from 8 AM until 8 PM, sometimes for several days? I’m often presented with some derivative of the attitude: “I’m not going somewhere that people sit on their butts for hours at a time staring at a wall!” Resistance is understandable.

I will be perfectly honest. This is not for everyone. Even some who desire this form of retreat find the physical challenge beyond negotiation. However, I count myself among the fortunate who not only desire it, but who actually relish it. I’ve continued to come back to the practice for all of my adult life. But why? What’s in it? What’s the call? Therein lies the mystery.

The practice, as engaged, has been handed down in an unbroken chain since the time of Buddha – for about 2500 years. The aspect of facing the wall is attributed to a person called Boddhidharma, which is a legend in and of itself. By observation alone, there must be some bit of substance herein. The “wall-gazing” piece, by whatever perspective, minimizes distraction. It’s a way to focus. In essence, one is faced with a mirror. That mirror offers a glimpse into one’s very soul.

It’s easy to become lost in the whirlwind of life on a daily basis. We can become so very task focused that we lose sight of the bigger aspect of life. In other words, why are we engaged in all these tasks? What do they provide or accomplish? Oftentimes the greater aspect of life is lost in its simplicity. It’s the release from the “task oriented” world that the Sesshin environment provides. Oddly, even amidst the endurance of Noble Silence and hours of meditation,  deep intimacy develops among the people who participate.

At some point during the process there is a renewal. Perhaps it’s possible to say when or how. More importantly, the magic just happens, completely of its own accord, without need for explanation or description. On the one hand, one could say that they “survived” the weekend. On the other hand, they could say that they survived their self.

Politics of the Middle Way

My grandmother had a recurring lecture that I received liberally. Actually, the important part was the consistent concept that each of the lectures contained. They went something like this: “Don’t spend your money on foolishness.” Or “Don’t get involved in that foolishness.” I am proud to say that to this day, long after her death, her words still ring clearly through my psyche on a regular basis, like every day.

I’m preoccupied today by thoughts of the recent massacre in Las Vegas. Supposedly, the largest mass killing in recent history. This is such a tragic event that when I mention it to some of my friends, they are silent – either they don’t know what to say, or they are so dumbfounded that they can’t say what they’re thinking or feeling. The aspect of this calamity that is as hard to endure as the event itself is the panorama of reactions that is plastered through the media, as well as the way the media has approached the tragedy. Many have been extremely quick to jump to conclusions, hastily pushing a personally motivated political agenda. Others have blurted opinions that have no bearing on or empathy for the senseless and needless loss of life. And, as always, the media itself has undertaken enormous effort to cover the event from every conceivable angle, rife with the lance of commercialism that hammers the general public with the goriest of details.

I’ve read about it. I’ve watched it unfold. I’ve remained silent and held opinions. It forces and drives me to a deep silence that begs for compassion and understanding, in myself and others. In an odd sense, I see where it fits in our current authoring of history. I perceive it as a calling. But who is calling? And what are they calling for? The call is being initiated by much more than that which any individual can extend. There’s more involved in this tragedy than the psychotic and twisted sociopathology of any individual shooter. It’s one of a series of similar violent events that seem to be occurring with a degree of regularity.

It seems that there are many who have solutions and opinions about causes. Yet each solution seems to fall short of a resolution. And with each solution, there are counter-solutions and opposing concepts that only feed the fire of conflict. Then, there’s the way we approach the conflict, which is that the objective is to dominate, to eliminate all contrary viewpoints, to win at any cost.

Yet the question remains. What does this event mean? How could such a tragedy occur? How can such a string of tragedies occur, and continue to occur, all similar at the least in the insidiousness of their senselessness and needlessness? What is the true cause of these tragedies?

We live our lives as if individual events are not connected to each other. We approach life as if we, each and every individual, have no connection to the other creatures on the planet, nor to the planet itself. We approach our lives as if we “arrived” here from “somewhere else”, and that we will “depart” from this place and eventually go “someplace else”. It’s as if this entire planet is an expendable intermediary step on our individual quest for getting “something” in order to build up “treasure” for some other kingdom. And the implication of this approach is that everyone and everything on the planet is to be used and expended as we dominate and progress. If one would care to look closely, herein lies the problem.

What if a simple and opposite premise is more accurate, more addresses cause and solution?

Have you every been brutally cut off in traffic? Have you ever seen the eyes of a person who will not budge in the least, continuing a deadly trajectory that says “I will take you out and annihilate you so that I can be faster and more right and more hasty and my timetable and aggression are more important than your life and I don’t care about the consequences”? It’s an extremely frightening experience, yet it happens every day,  all day long. It has become the norm of driving in our society. Our roads are a reflection of the mind of the shooter who finally snaps, goes over the edge, and leaves an indelible mark in our common history. In all truth, driving and mass murder are only two aspects of the foolishness with which we construct our “rat race”.

What if all events are connected? What if we, each and every living, breathing being are all connected? What if the call being issued is to look for and acknowledge the inherent connection of life to life within life? Can it be that the simplicity of this premise makes it so difficult to see? Granted, it’s not always easy to accept. This is the Middle Way, neither grabbing for the carrot nor running from the stick. Stillness abounds where aggression, competition, and foolishness cease. Therein lies the Peace that surpasses understanding.

We seem to be extremely content to repeat the mistakes of our own foolishness.  Violent acts abound throughout history. Over and over, again and again, we call to ourselves. This recent violent event seems to be well described by a line from the Millenium TV series that was popular in the 90’s – “This is who we are.

The Purpose of Meditation

Some time ago, I was considering attending a morning meditation. I knew that the local Zen center had an early morning sit at 6 AM. I’d been on the periphery of their proceedings for a while, but had never committed to actually going to the morning session. I could easily make excuses for not going: it wasn’t convenient, I could more easily sit by myself at home, I didn’t know the routines, etc. I was actually pretty stagnant in my practice, and growing frustrated with it. I finally got tired of my own mental sludge, so one morning I went.

My first impression was of the teacher, who seemed to be relaxed as he sat. Even more, he appeared to be at ease with his posture. The environment was conducive to meditation. The altar had candles, the cushions were arranged neatly, and the people who were already there welcomed me with few words and open hearts. I took a place, and faced the wall as was the practice in this tradition.

The bell rang three times at precisely 6 AM. Since this was my first time at this particular event, I didn’t know what to expect. More importantly, I didn’t have any expectations. The teacher then planted a seed for our consideration, which was his way.  He said “The purpose of meditation is to accept yourself fully, exactly as you are.”

At that moment I felt myself swell with tension. I immediately recognized it as anger. It was interesting that I had been sitting there since before the bell rang, and my thoughts were relatively clear. I envisioned the anger that washed through me as making myself become much bigger, in the way Brutus seems to grow large when overwhelming Popeye. I also saw myself, in the large version, reach over and grab the teacher by the neck and let him know: “I CAME DOWN HERE TO GET AWAY FROM THAT PERSON.”

But that was all he said. It was a simple statement, without judgment or condemnation. There wasn’t any encouragement to it, either. It was a simple statement for consideration, a seed of contemplation.

Needless to say, I had more than enough to meditate upon. How could he have known so aptly my state of mind? Why did I have to face that part of myself today, when what I needed most was a break from the war within myself? What exactly is involved in accepting myself exactly as I am? And is acceptance of myself truly the purpose of meditation? I thought meditation was something special. I thought there was some technique or process, perhaps a trick, to find peace. If all of the above is true, then acceptance would have to be that process, or trick. But that kind of acceptance is so often unacceptable.

Needless to say, I managed to sit silently through this reaction. This wasn’t my first time “on the cushion”. In fact, I managed to sit for the next 35 minutes without moving. The place was tranquil in the stillness of the morning. All the others who were there somehow managed to sit silently as well. However, the thoughts and emotions within me raged and tugged in all directions. One might say that I was dragging a lot of baggage around with myself. I was far from “accepting myself exactly as I am.”

I managed to endure through the sit that morning. When I walked out of the center, I felt a wave of peacefulness that I didn’t walk in with. I even went back. I made a habit of going. Somehow, I had accepted myself, exactly as I was, for 35 minutes. It felt good.

Sending Hope Through a Wormhole

I’ve been going to a small meditation group that meets once each week. It’s a nice, quaint setting that is conducive to intimacy. I’m relatively new to the group, still getting to know the people there.

Today we met, and one of the people walked in and said “I’m feeling a little ‘tentative’. Right now, in Washington, the James Comey inquiry is taking place.” It was an interesting statement, in that the “envelope” that we create during our sit together often feels protective from external matters. Her statement was very astute, though, in that there’s no doubt that most of the people in the US were very aware of this inquiry and the weight it could have on the course of political issues.

At any rate, I had to think about both sides of this situation. We, in Austin, Texas, in a nice, protective bubble establishing ourselves in a state of awareness and inclusion. Conversely, a powerful group of people over 2,000 miles away establishing themselves within a serious state of probing and conflict. Is there any way these two ends of the spectrum could possibly reconcile each other?

As we sat, the following bubbled up through my thought process:

I hope that they, in that space, can can be affected by us, in this space the way that we, in this space, are affected by them in that space.

We’re hoping for a peaceful resolution.

The Illusion Called Introspection

I recently read an interesting Wikipedia article on Spiritual Bypass. This phenomenon is an interesting process, which is succinctly described as using an ostensible spiritual practice as a mask, or justification, to continue behavior that is not completely in line with true Spiritual means. The article had a reference to what is called the Introspection Illusion, and just that title alone beckoned me to read further.

For some time I’ve considered myself to be an ‘introspective’ person. Recently, as I’ve looked at my tendency to ‘introspect’, as well as that of others who self-label themselves as introspective, I’ve looked deeper at the tendency. I’ve begun to wonder if calling myself ‘introspective’ isn’t just another way of saying that I’m insecure, especially in social settings. The more I look, the more I tend to be convinced that there is more than a grain of truth to this insight.

The Introspection Illusion advanced my understanding of the process, but it was hard bought understanding. When I first read the article, I thought “??..what..??” I didn’t “get it”, and I had to come back and reread the article several times, slowly, for the subtle nuances to sink in. That’s when I knew that I was on to something.

I tend to think that introspection, in and of itself, isn’t bad. Indeed, it’s good. Also, I don’t think that people can be “hard classified” as introverts or extroverts. We are all a mix. However, some people will have a prevailing tendency for one or the other. Despite any insecurity or shortcoming, I find myself “recharging” and finding solace more readily when alone, in most cases. When stressed or depleted, the time I spend at home, or in Nature, serves well to restore my natural balance. I tend to be thoroughly drained and depleted by crowds of people. Even small group settings that are not mindful or authentic send me into overload. The holy grail for me is when I can be in the company of people wherein we can share the same space, yet not intrude on the internal space of each other.

The Introspection Illusion differs from, yet parallels, my insight into insecurity. This malady is about the human tendency for justification and rationalization of actions and attitudes. In short, the article says that we can’t be truly “introspective” into our deeper motivations because of the superficial practice of justification and rationalization. In short, as long as we justify or rationalize our behavior or attitude, we can’t see deeply into our true motivation. Indeed, the article mentioned that studies have shown that people tend to stick with their justification and rationalization even when being called out by another person on the behavior. In other words, we have a tendency to defend our shallowness, no matter what.

So, what’s the solution? There are those of us who will not accept superficial solutions, and I count myself a member of this group. I have found that the more I apply myself to honest Spiritual Practice the more I need to be authentic and honest. I also tend to think that there are other means of resonating with the deeper, hidden motivations such as an honest psychological approach, or a tried and true 12 Step Study. In other words, surrounding myself with honest people that I trust will help me resonate with my deeper motivations, IF I’m willing to listen to them.