Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'm a Writer

I've been reading a book recently called The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. I could go on all day about what I've learned--or started to begin to learn--from this book. I'm sure I will eventually. There's one thing that he talks about that come s to my mind now though. He's a writer so his struggle is to write. Other artists struggle to paint or make music and so on. I can relate to him well though because I'm a writer. (Wow....I think that's the first time I can remember actually writing that down and really putting it out there. "I'm a writer." I may not have even said it! I'm a writer. I write.)

Every day he gets up and starts again. If he underestimates the power of Resistance, which is his term for all the inertia, resistance, doubt, and sabatoge that goes on within us and limits our progress towards our dreams, then he will find by the end of the day that he's gotten off track and he hasn't practiced his discipline of writing. He's a writer so he must write every day. He must sit down at his desk and write. He must be disciplined and commit time to it.

I must do that too. (A more comfortable chair would help!) I must sit down and write every day. I've thought about it before over the years, always giving myself some reason to not do it, some argument conjured by Resistance. Now I just feel like I don't have any choice. It's write or die. If I don't write I'm finished. If I don't write I'll go throught the rest of my life not being who I am, being a shadow self. After writing just that little piece of microfiction the other day I realized the fact: I'm a repressed artist. Bigtime. My temperment, outlook, and way of perceiving and expressing have always been complementary to creative expression. It's a natural fit for me. It's what I need. It's what I have to give. Writing draws on something in me that longs to grow and develop and shine. Something that I've been keeping shut up in a closet for most of the past decade.

I'm already starting to feel the grief. You can't truly feel the loss of something until you really appreciate it. I could always tell myself before that it wasn't that big of a deal. The world didn't need it. I could be just as happy doing something else. Now I realize that I've been neglecting a vital part of who I am for a really, really long time, like living for years with my right hand tied behind my back! It's almost nauseating to think about, but I'm glad it makes me feel sad because that means I'm really seeing the truth now. I'm no longer in denial about my creative nature.

I'm here now, 32 years old, with my whole life ahead of me. Not too old. I've a lot left to give, hopefully lots of time. And I'm coming to these realizations in an ideal situation. I've got all this time to myself, especially on work days, and a job with not that many hours. There's lots of time to write. Lots of time to start developing the discipline of writing. time to sit down and just write and work on it and work through the Resistance and start growing and gaining confidence as a writer. Time to find my passion, my interests, my Muse. Time to weather the ups and downs of the whole process.

I'm exhausted right now. Lots of thoughts swirling but they'll have to wait. This is life. Sometimes you just have to laugh and shake your head at yourself and the decisions you've made and the excuses you've given yourself for them. This is growing up. Life is good. And it's short. Accomplishing a lot and leaving a legacy is great if you can manage it, but the main thing is the journey, the growing, the discovery, the illumination! What matters most is what carries on into the next world. If I publish one book or ten or none, what matters is the process I go through, the joy I feel, the happiness I bring to others, the vibrancy and spiritual power with which I move through this life. Writing is part of that somehow for me. It must be part of my path through this life, part of my way of taking in and giving out. Maybe drawing and painting too! Music! Just creative expression. I don't know how it's going to all come together. That not knowing was enough to turn me back in the past, but now I can't turn back. There's no going back. I'll just have to keep creating and see where it leads me. I'll keep praying and loving God and seeking His Kingdom, so I'm not worried it's going to lead me astray or anything like that. Creating is goin to lead me into another phase of life, one in which I start to become the man I was created to be. I'm a creator. I'm a Baha'i. I'm a soul. I'm a servant. I'm a counselor? Working on that one. I can finally say with certainty, though, I'm a writer. I write.

On another note, I want to continue putting down firsts here:

-- Today was the first time I had a persimmon since I was in China. It was awesome! They look like little orange tomatoes but their insides are almost like pudding. You can just open up a hole and suck out the goodness! Yummy! They just showed up at the fruit lady's stand so maybe it's the season. It's-a niice!

-- Last night was the first time I made spaghetti in Korea. I added lots of veggies. It was goooood.

-- On Monday I wrote a fictional story for the first time in maybe 10 years! It was a huge breakthrough for me, part of other breakthroughs happening in me right now. I'm breaking into pieces with all these breakthroughs! Happy pieces.

-- That was also my first installment in what will be weekly contributions to a microfiction writing group that I just joined, It's The Water, which is linked to this blog. Stoked about it.

-- Tomorrow will be my first trip to Costco in Korea. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Evil Eye

Ok, definitely keeping this one short!! Just want to throw down my thoughts for today.

I couldn't sleep last night until ungodly late, so then i woke up late and didn't have much time before work. My goal is to turn off the lights at 1 am every night and wake up at 10 am every day. I'll transition to that this week and start it in earnest on Sunday night. Then I'll keep it up for 21 days. A friend told me that that's the amount of time it takes to establish a new habit. So I guess I'll be realizing my goals over 3 weeks and then it'll be more habitual and easier and flowier.

Another thing is that I'm getting so sick of the news! It's like crack! I get so sick and poisoned from reading about the presidential campaign, but I'm so worried that McCain might win that I keep going back. I have to admit I SO want Obama to win and it would be an absolute DISASTER worse than Bush if McCain wins. I can't even bear the thought! Oy...but it's still the darkness before the dawn and things still have to get worse before they get better and the old world order is still in need of futher crumbling. McCain would be the man for that.'s hard to be detached. There's nothing for it, though, except to stop soaking it in and just let those matters be.

Today I played a computer game but only for a little bit. The only other goofing around was the politics crack rock smoking. The main problem today (and most days) is just going a little too slow. I mean there's no doubt that going slow and taking it easy is and always will be my style. A lot of good things come from it but I also want to feel productive. Like if I'm going to be doing nothing or going slow it should be purposeful and meditative. That's spiritual work that bears fruit. Too often, though, I jsut find that a lot of time has passed while I was just thinknig or day dreaming or dragging something out and taking forever to finish and move on. Internet surfing is the main thing that I have a problem with that. I could save an hour or more each day by just checking things quickly, doing my thing, and not lingering. So little comes from the lingering! So very little! Blech...sick of it. Internet surfing is draining the life out of me. It's time for me to take it back.

I felt a bit lost over the last couple days, feeling a bit like I'm in a vacuum. There's more times when I'm choosing to not do what I usually do but my mind hasn't quite figured out how to do anything else yet so there's been a lot of moments of floating and thinking "now what?" I take that at a good sign. It means I'm pulling out and creating space for new activities. During the week I'm forced to be alone a lot so I have to figure out how to be productive alone. That's a challenge for me. I always veer towards escape. I think a good thing to do in those moments when I feel lost and clueless is to pick up a book and just start absorbing what's in it. I have resistance to that and often feel like I have to be in the mood and everything has to be right for to sit down with a book. That's got to end now because with this schedule and all this alone time, it either read a lot (which I truly need and want to do) or end up goofing off more than I should. Goals are forthcoming in this area.

And now for something completely different.....

The students in my most advanced class--all 3rd to 5th graders--think I look like Harry Potter with my glasses on. When i take them off, though, they're mortified, saying I transform into Voldemort! They always have this dramatic reaction whenever I take off my glasses! It's crazy to me! Can I really look that different? Hailey said it was a big difference. I know my eyes are a lot smaller in the glasses. Anyways today I took my glasses off for a moment for whatever reason and there was comment of course. One girl in particular, Lynn--a really brilliant and wonderful girl--doesn't like me to do it. She groaned and told me to put them back on. Later I was joking around and pulled them down on my nose and fake-scary peered at her with my real, apparently gargantuan, eyes. She put her head in her arms and i soon realized she was crying! I apologized to her and told her I didn't realize that it really was upsetting to her. I thought it was all good fun. I promised to never do it again and assured her I wasn't trying to scare her and I'm not a scary man. I've never even hit anybody! She suggested that I have them surgically attached to my head to remove the threat once and for all. I told her I'd consider it. Anyways, it was just a funny, crazy, yet also unsettling situation. The last thing I want is to be creepy!

So on to the new things I did today:

- Today was the second time in Korea that I bought vegetables and tofu and chopped them and cooked them and made a meal at home! It was the first time I did it just cooking for myself. I got leftovers too! There was basically no spices or anything so it wasn't exactly momma's home cookin', but it was a great start. I'm definitely doing more of that and will be setting a concrete goal for how much I do it every week.

- Today was the first time I listened to the amazing mix CD that Hailey gave me! I'm so in love with it! It's so awesome and moving and soulful, and it's diverse yet full of all kinds of music that I don't listen to much and new artists to me. I suddenly adore the Indigo Girls. Never even tried them before. Just assumed they weren't my thing. Assumption strikes again. All kinds of good spiritual and stirring and passionate and fun and energizing music. The songs and the dynamic of the whole mix is really filled with Hailey's spirit. It makes me feel closer to her and miss her more at the same time.

- Today was one of the first times in a while that I put the smack down on one of my classes and let them know who's boss. They're middle school kids who need it sometimes. I actually took this class over because they were driving one of the other teachers batty. They had been doing this thing of jabbering and coming up with consant distractions and being sluggish and recalcitrant for a while but today it got to be too much. I let them know who's in control of my classroom. It's me. I was nice afterward, though, and it felt like a step in the right direction. One the main problems with this group is that it's 8pm, they've been in school forever alrady that day, they're exhausted and their blood suger is bottoming out. Parents need to make sure their kids get fed before 9:30 or whatever! One way or another! It just infuriates me that these kids can't get any food in their bellies day after day! It's a tough life for them. Tough being a Korean teenager. Tough being Korean.

Anyways, that's a whole other ball of wax. Check ya later!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Well I started off my last entry by saying that I was going to just write and not try to produce a major synthesis on the page. Turned out to be just as long as most of my posts! I don't feel pressure to express big ideas here, though, so it's all good. I just end up having a lot to say. Some of it seems like it would be good to read. Other stuff's a little more for me. Yep, that's ok.

Anyways, got some stuff on my mind. This last weekend was Chuseok, which is basically the Korean harvest festival. It ends up being almost exactly like Thanksgiving except Korean. I received an invitation from some friends, for which I am still grateful, to go with them for a trip to the country--way out in the country apparently--to a Buddhist temple. There would be some Chuseok celebration there, as well as lots of time to relax and chill. I think they were planning to study the Faith together some. Everyday would involve some time in the sauna and alone time just walking in the woods. Fresh air. Lots of stars at night (as opposed to zero here in Seoul.) It was also a chance for me to hang with Lex, my old friend who I knew before I got here but haven't been able to see much of since I got here, and get to know some other foreign friends better. So it was an ideal situation.

In the end, though, pretty much at the last minute, I decided not to go. At that moment, as great as it was it just seemed like another thing I needed to do. I wasn’t feeling joy at the thought of it. I also did NOT want to get up at 5:30 on Saturday morning to go catch the bus and ride on it for 5 or 6 hours or whatever after staying up late celebrating my friends birthday. So I didn’t go.

Why am I going on about this? I guess because what I wanted to do instead was stay home and have time to myself and do all these things I said I was going to do. Well I didn’t do most of the things I said I would do. I simply fell into the same rut I so often do when completely left to my own devices with no outside pressure. I surfed the internet, played computer games, watched movies, read a novel, annnnd….that’s about it. Yeah. At the end I definitely felt like I’de had a break but I felt just as worn out from it as rested. I felt so weary, like “so this is it?” This is what I do? This is my life? Just carry on like this?

Going to the Buddhist retreat would have been a more awesome thing to do, but I don’t regret not going. In the end I think this long weekend was useful. It was like a trip through all the things I do that I’m really tired of and ready in my heart to change. A tour through my vices and weaknesses. A chance to really look at them and how they arise and what they produce. It’s like all my weakness was a basket of peaches and I devoured every single one. I really tasted the fruit of my lame habits.

It also felt like it was right on time in this process I’ve been going through. After the first few months of Korea I was fully recovered from the divorce and the culture shock and able to start really living my life here. Then I started being truly active in the work of the Cause here and imbibing the spiritual juice from that. Then I went to the meditation retreat. During and after the retreat a new understanding and awareness of mindfulness in the present moment sprouted out and started growing in my mind. It was definitely a turning point for me. I was finally able to Be Here Now and feel the joy of that and make decisions coming out of that. Then things really turned on for me in serving the Cause and I found my way of engaging, of starting to give my all here. Then Hailey came back into my life from the brink of just letting each other go on into separate lives most likely. We started talking a lot and then spent a whole lot of time together for a week and a half here in Seoul. I really saw and felt and was deeply moved by her energy, her passion, her drive, her questing nature, her urge to create, experience, live! I realized that there’s not enough of that in me, that there used to be more. I think it kinda got tamped down steadily over time. I didn’t even realize how much the excitement had gone out of my life until it was rekindled by my friendship with Hailey.

I guess I have been through tough times of late, the kind of times that wear you down, make you stay in a shell without even knowing it. You feel enough stress and pain and the first priority becomes avoiding stress and pain! I guess that’s where I’ve been though I knew it not! I sure have felt a lot of stress and pain over the years, especially the last two. Oh man. But I witnessed a fire in Hailey that I recognized, a fire that has always burned in my heart, too weakly of late. It’s the fire of questing passion! The fire of the love of God! The blaze of attraction to Him as He appears in infinite manifestions of His beauty and power and wonder!

She saw that fire in me as it blazed more brightly in her presence and was attracted to it. Unfortunately that flame in me is fickle and much weaker than it should be. It should be a raging bonfire! It once was and can be again!

I feel a change inside. Now I know what’s been missing. Now I can begin to fill the hole, exercise the atrophied muscles. Other things have come together to make this next step possible. It’s all part of a process, a positive process of spiritual growth, and of healing it would seem. I’m ready to take action, to stoke the fire in my heart, to come out of my shell and sally forth on the ultimate quest, the quest to draw nearer to and live in the service of God! And what’s different now is that I can see that past ways I that I thought were on that path were really not actions but words and wispy thoughts. That’s the new thing! Seeing what is action on the path of God and what is not. It’s definitely part Be Here Now but it’s also just as much Sally Forth!

More soon on what Sally Forth! is to me and how I plan to act on it. One thing that feels like an important part of it is doing new things. Doing things I’ve never done before or doing things in a new way or even a new place. Newness! Freshness! Sally Forth! So I want to put down here the new things I do as I do them. here’s a few to start with.

- Today I put beautiful and profound things to look at up on the walls of my apartment for the first time.

- Today I lay down on the floor and listened to exquisite music on my headphones for a while, just relaxing and enjoying and doing nothing else, not even thinking. That was new and I realized as I was doing it that it was a concentrated dose of what I need after work. I’ve been whiling away the hours on the computer trying to get that kind of satisfaction from a terribly diluted source.

- Today I completely tidied up my apartment on a normal workday for the first time.

- Today I put an extension cord on my headphones so that I can listen to awesome music as loud as I like and with that nice headphone effect as go around the house and do stuff. First time for that and it was niiiice!

- Today I danced full on dance floor style to some sweet electronic . Not the first time for that but there haven’t been many. It was the first time, however, that I realized that I need to do that on a regular basis!

That’s it for today but that is JUST the beginning! I’m excited! More later!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Soul-Body Coordination

I'm going to to try to be a little less ambitious with my blog posts. I need to write--at least a little bit more--just to write and to express my thoughts through writing. Doesn't always need to be a big synthesis.

Really late now and I should be getting to bed, but I just felt that I've crossed over back into the world after two days of cutting myself off from it, so I wanted to make the connection.

Taking time off completely from everything is something I need to do every once in a while, if possible. The last 4 weeks have been busy and eventful. The last 2 weeks of them were mind-blowing. Hailey was up visiting Seoul for almost two weeks so that we could have a chance to get to know each other better.

She's in the difficult position of having gotten to know me late in the game after she'd already made hard and fast plans for school and a whole process of working toward her dream to be an art therapist. Our only options are for her to come back and put that off for however long being here for another year or so would require so that we can really explore our relationship OR for me to finish out my contract and do my best to meet up with her in Canada. That would mean getting a job up there and building a career as best I can in the circumstances. It's possible I could get a CELTA or something (intensive training for teaching ESL) and find some work teaching ESL up there. She'll be living in Montreal most likely. That's a pretty international city and there may be a demand for ESL teachers without Masters degrees. Then it could be more of that or getting things going for a Masters in Social Work. I starting to think I can add "teaching ESL" to list of things that I could be happy doing for a decade or more. The only other thing on that list right now is councelor/therapist. I had thought school teacher of the normal sort could be on it but I don't think that's my gig.

Just for fun, let's think of more things to put on that list. First to mind is making electronic music, stuff like Ulrich Schnauss or Boards of Canada or Autechre. One more thing I think I could be really good at. That one I think I could be REALLY good at but it takes time. My gosh that would be so fulfilling! Resistance...resistance. I think about creativity differently now. Just one of the many things I've learned from Hailey. Travel writing! That would be cool. Hailey has a friend, Peter, wonderful guy, who's working on that. What else? College professor. What subject? See that's where I start thinking, "Would I really want to read that much academia on one subject?" Maybe, maybe history.

You ever think about where you are now and wish you could use all you've learned to go back and do it all differently? I used to think those thoughts a lot. Still tempting, but not at all real. I've got 60 years left maybe, if I just die of old age.

One thing Hailey noticed about me that I don't remember other people commenting on is how much i think and talk about the afterlife. Not all the time but she saw that it's something that's on my mind and i relate a lot of things to it and kind of turn my mind to it at most opportunities. I hadn't thought about it much recently but it's totally true. Just a little perspective on the afterlife, learning what I've learned from Baha'u'llah, makes it so clear to me that everything relates back to it, everything gets its meaning from it. What's a baby in a womb without a world to be born into? Same thing goes for a life without a vision of eternal life, for me at least.

Trying to slide through this life while keeping my head up in those clouds isn't the way. Be Here Now has taught me some about that. Hailey taught me about it too. She's so alive! So active, so engaged, so driven to experience and create. I feel we're reaching towards the same goal, but she has some good ways of being that help her to keep going. She has a way of living that is very conducive to spiritual life. Pure heartedness, pure intention, backed up by determined, audacious, hungry, striving action!

That hasn't been easy for, that way of living. I must understand why. I do work and strive and really do a lot sometimes, but then I get tired. That probably means I don't have enough energy because I'm not physically healthy. I also get overwhelmed or distracted. I think a really big factor is goals though. People have more passion and drive when they're working towards goals. It gives them something to focus on. It enhances everything they do in pursuit of the goal, just being committed to that goal!

Fact is, I need more goals. I need any goals. There are things that are important to me. Baha'u'llah is so important to me. Serving His Cause is so very important to me. What are my goals in serving His Cause though? What am I working towards? Part of serving His Cause is to gain knowledge and insights? So what are my goals for that? I need energy for life and better health. What's my goal? Career must take root in my work and learning at some point. Even if I'm not certain if it's ESL or counceling and what circumstances will be, what my goal at this stage? I should be creating and making art of some sort--writing, drawing, music. As much as I've ignored it, it's still who I am, a creative, abstract thinking dreamer who longs to exist on a less material, more expressive, spiritual, fluid, creative plane. I think the word for that is artist. What's my goal?

Here's the fact that I'm looking at, staring me in the face right now: setting goals and working towards them is a good, fundamental function of life. It's something everyone should be doing in their lives. It's also an ability, something that get's better with practice and confidence. It can be a strength or a weakness.

For me it's a weakness, flat out. It's not something I grew up learning how to do, and I guess something I'm not as naturally as inclined to as many people. I've just kept on living, year after year, without really having to do it very much, without really having to learn it and develop that ability in myself.

So here I am, 32 years old, a good person, someone who enriches the lives of others and is a good but not great servant to them, a decent but not great teacher, a good but not great Baha'i. I do think people look at me and think, "Man, Daniel's so great! He's kind and helpful and spiritual and likes to talk about interesting things and has a good attitude. He's got a lot of good qualities. But something's missing, something's fuzzy, out of focus. What's missing in him?"

It's goals. Drive. Focus. Passion for something that's more than an idea or a vision. Purpose honed to a process of working towards a goal. I DO have a lot of passion, desire, love, longing! I cannot afford to mistake thought for action any longer though.

Hailey is so action packed. She's bursting, and it's a wonder to see! She likes me enough to be considering changing her plans to be near me, so I do have some things going for me it seems. I know I do. I have many good qualities. I bring good things into this world. Being with Hailey has taught me many things. Here's three big ones. 1) It's clear to me that she's giving and receiving the great benefits of a goal oriented, action oriented life. That's a life that simply brings out into reality more of the potential within. I love that in her and I need so much more of that in myself. 2) I have strong resistance in me to that kind of change, because it goes beneath the surface and messes with the established order, the ego king that doesn't wish for any reforms. 3) I have to start developing my ability to set and acheive goals from this moment forward or two things will happen. First, despite all the things she loves about me, Hailey won't be able to bear my floating through life and I'll have lost her. Aw hell naw! I am NOT letting that happen! Second, I'll just be lame and increasingly pathetic. It's not pathetic yet, but it's 100% lame. In just a year or so it will start becoming pathetic. Then I'm in BIG trouble. I must NOT let it get to that point!

We all have things we need to work on, things that we find, often around my age probably, that aren't where they should be. I think this is my biggie. Goals. It's all about goals for me. It's not too late, but I'm pushing it. I'm really pushing it.

It's hard to change! It's hard to change things in myself, my way of living, my daily routine, my way of thinking. It's hard to change things like setting and working diligently towards goals. Luckily it's simple. Fairly simple. It's definitely simple to just start. I can think of 5 things to set goals for right off the bat.
1. A jogging regimen.
2. A study regimen.
3. Creativity: writing, drawing, singing, dancing (don't want to say regimen.)
4. A cooking regimen.
5. A sleep regimen.

BAM! Of course, actual goals are more specific, so I need to work out the details.

I just realized....the next month or so is it. I've glimpsed the seriousness of my situation just in time! I have to do this now or there will be consequences.

I know when you;re in a relationship you can't be trying to change the person or looking for them to be someone they're not. I see that clearly, yet there is another side. Knowing that it will please the one you love and bring more harmony to the relationship is a powerful motivator for making deeper changes. Its happened many a time don't you think? Sure it's failed to happen many times too, but that's probably often when the person doesn't really want to make the change. I want to make this change in myself. I've felt this weakness in me for a long time and grown weary of the price I pay for it. When it's just me in the picture it's been tough to bring together the motivation and awareness and all the juice I need to work on this kind of thing and sustain my efforts. So tough that it hasn't really happened. Doing what it takes to be the man I need to be for the girl of my dreams, though, that's a whole different story! I really care about that and I'll do just about anything I can possibly do to be that man! That's not bad right? That's love! Love has transformed much worse men than me into much better men than me! So let its power drive me forward to new heights!

Just have to make sure I'm not getting ahead of the game. I also must be patient and open to what God gives me. It may not be what I desire, but everything from god is a precious gift. I must humbly accept His will.

Well, I've gotten some really good insights from this writing. I know they come from Thy Kingdom and the Concourse on High, Lord. Thank You! Time to go pray and live my life.