Leaving the Desert

I left the desert yesterday. To this. Snow clouds. Not far from home. Two days ago I was walking alone through the desert. This morning I awoke to falling snow and the prospect of having to shovel today. The desert certainly has its advantages!

Aside from the obvious benefit of not having to shovel, was my time in the desert worth it?

At first I was suppressing the question because I wanted to avoid assessing or judging the experience and instead just wanted to accept it for what it was. But last evening, after arriving home and having a wonderful time with my wife, at dinner at Bluebeard and later at home, I couldn’t avoid the obvious answer: the decision to go to the desert was a good one.

I’ll be posting some contemporaneous reflections starting tomorrow — some journal notes from last week, culminating with some final thoughts with a posting a week hence.

For now, suffice it to say that, at least in my experience, the decision to spend some time alone and away, in the desert, separated from my normal daily routine, unconnected entirely from work and career demands (the first time since 1983!), in semi-solitude, meditation, and contemplation, was a good one.

Was it life-changing? That remains to be seen. At the very least, though, it was life-enhancing.

More to come.

Update: After shoveling the walk with my hurting back, I decided this was for the birds and walked the two blocks to Ace Hardware and purchased a snow blower. One alternative was to return to Arizona. The other alternative was to hide in the basement meditating while my wife shoveled the driveway, but thus far I haven’t managed not to feel guilty about such behaviors.

Update 1/13/19: We ended up with 7 inches of snow. Thank god for snow blowers!

Why I Write

A good friend once asked me why I write these blog posts. My answer was, “Because I like to write.” It was a quick and easy way of responding. And true, too. I didn’t claim to be writing because I had some special knowledge or wisdom to impart. I don’t. And I didn’t claim to be writing because I hope to change anyone’s mind about anything. I don’t. Yet I suppose my response was incomplete. Reading these words by Jason Zweig, one of my favorite columnists, helped me to understand that:

You can’t write anything if you don’t feel something.  You have to want to tell people what you feel, what you care about, what you believe, what you know; if you don’t have something you’re on fire to tell us about, you shouldn’t be writing.

Continue reading

Desert Time

One of my resolutions for 2018 was to take a solo silent retreat. I’m a bit late, but better late than never. This morning I left for the desert. For a week. Alone. Off the grid. No work, conference calls, client contacts, appointments, emails, internet, television, newspapers, blogs, Twitter, phone calls, or stock trades. No intentional or voluntary distractions. None.

I’ve never done this. It’s appealing theoretically; however, I really have no idea what it will be like in reality. It could turn out to be a really bad idea. I hope not.

I have no goals for the week. It was tempting (I seem to need goals, which is part of the problem), but I thought better of it. I decided it would be best to relinquish control and leave my goals and expectations behind. And to focus on mindfulness, meditation, and reflection. With no distractions or preconceptions.

I suppose this trip to the desert is part of my quest for greater awareness and acceptance of reality, freedom, unshakable contentment, and unconditional happiness.

Put differently, I want to be as well as possible. For that to happen, I believe I need to break the spell of being distracted by mindless, uncontrollable thoughts, senseless concerns and worries, and false perspectives. In short, I seek greater freedom and deeper contentment. In order to flourish.

What freedom do I desire? To be free from expectations. Demands. Biases. Prejudices. Judgments. Falsehoods. Illusions. Delusions. Disappointments. Worry. Frustration. Desires. Guilt. Despair. Projections. Labels. Attachments. Insecurities. Fear. Uncontrollable thoughts. Boredom. Rumination. Resentments. Insomnia. Compulsive eating. Stress. Dark thoughts. And suffering.

I’ve come to understand that, for that to happen, I have much to unlearn and many insights to gain into how and why I think and feel the way I do. I need to become more aware and see reality more clearly. And not be a slave to my mind.

“Time spent undistracted and alone, in self-examination, journaling, meditation, resolves the unresolved and takes us from mentally fat to fit,” according to Naval Ravikant.

Stillness is the word that comes to mind. Not doing. Just being.

Will a week alone in the desert help?

I guess I’ll find out.

The Reign of the King of Debt

“I’m the king of debt,” Donald Trump once said. Apparently, he wasn’t lying.

The U.S. Treasury Department reported today that the national debt has increased by $2 trillion ($2,000,000,000,000) since President Trump took office on January 20, 2017. To be fair, the president didn’t do it all by himself: He had the full cooperation of the Republicans who controlled Congress.

I celebrated by buying some U.S. Treasury notes.

Just Watch

The good times — at least for those who are fortunate enough to own stocks — may be coming to an end.

It’s been quite a ride since the Great Recession/Financial Crisis of 2008. But the sky isn’t the limit. It never was.

I wonder who was buying stocks at the all-time highs last year. I suppose it was people who think you can’t lose money in the stock market if you’re willing to buy and hold. I suppose it was people who weren’t familiar with these charts: Continue reading

Are We Nuts?

“The price of insulin has skyrocketed over the last few decades, making it increasingly difficult for diabetics to afford.” WSJ story titled High Insulin Prices Drive Diabetics to Take Extreme Measures.

More specifically, the price of life-saving insulin has risen by 200% since 2002.

We have a cruel health care system. Public policy, politicians, insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and healthcare providers are failing Americans. And we allow it to happen.

It doesn’t have to be this way. But it will continue to be this way so long as we accept it. And allow greed and cruel crony capitalism to rule.

Meanwhile, let’s build a wall.

 

Will 2019 Be Better or Worse Than 2018?

Will this year be better or worse than the year just ended?

No one knows. But what we do know is that it will be different.

We also know that it will be what it will be. And so much of what it will be will be outside our control. But not everything.

Concerning that which is within my control (at least partially), I seek to:

  • avoid big mistakes (and especially deadly ones);
  • live each day as if it is my last, as well as the first of many in a long life; and
  • flourish (more on that in my next post).

Of course, calendar years are mere arbitrary markers: constructs of humans to aid in our planning and scheduling of affairs. But the universe need not such constructs.

The universe relies on cycles (both short and long term) and seasons. And, indeed, human life is impacted by cycles and seasons, too. Far more than we are by the markers of a Gregorian calendar.

Being aware of where we are in the cycle and seasons is important — far more important than knowing the day, month, or year.

It’s easy to allow the calendar to dominate our lives. It’s easy to forget that awareness is far more important than schedules.

For many, life is fast paced. There is so much to do. And so little time within which to do it. There aren’t enough days. Or enough hours in the day.

Aren’t there?

I’ve come to understand there is enough time. More than enough.

For everyone.

Including me.