Episode 002: Transcription
Do you want to embrace the wonder of the Tao? Journey inward to journey outward? As he has done for decades, Taoist Master Mikel Steenrod talks about the path of spiritual freedom and down-to-Earth, everyday living well.
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In this episode, Taoist Master Mikel Steenrod describes how acceptance can free you from your “wouldas,” “shouldas,” and “couldas.” and why Spiritual Hygiene is the easiest way to control your “spiritual biome” and create an environment conducive to enlightenment.
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Welcome to Living the Tao-A Spiritual Podcast that explores how ancient wisdom, a practical perspective and deep truth, can empower you to live your best life. In this episode, Taoist Master Mikel Steenrod describes how acceptance can free you from your woodas, shuddahs and kudas, and why spiritual hygiene is the easiest way to control your spiritual biome and create an environment conducive to enlightenment.
Hygiene is the control of the in and the out. In temple practice is many times For example, I'll tell you one of the adept practices. And this is both in the very first system I learned, the PFE. It was among the adept practices that I was studying with (Master) Soon, which is living without a trace. Which, basically, for a period of time, you practice becoming invisible, but not in the ninja sense. So you become invisible by simply eliminating the trace of your existence no matter where you go. So for example, when you wake up, you reset the room precisely as it was before you went to sleep. You eliminate any trace of you having been there . You track yourself back through the kitchen, you eat, you eliminate the track. You go to the bathroom, you shower, you eliminate the track. That means you're sitting there wiping the shower down. So you completely eliminate the track of your existing. You do that. And so it reaches a strange point where you start being there and not existing at all. And to the point of where other people can be in the house. You can be in the house and they won't know you're just sitting there, moving around. Because every place you go, you just get to the habit of...you stop leaving a trace. First of all, because you really get tired of cleaning up after yourself. And two, you very quickly eliminate the traces. When you come in and you find that other people recognize you as existing by the trace that you create. So you just systematically erase that, no matter what happens. Now this can be a quite maddening practice for adepts, but it's really you learning how you impact the environment. And I'm not talking in an environmentalist sense. I'm talking about what is your in and what comes out of you. What you find is, what comes out of you is not just the things that pour out of your orifices, but the weight you leave within your environment. And that can be erased to a very great deal. And so you just systematically start working on it. Those of you with spouses might want to hold off on this one. It can be quite maddening for people. And you get a little OCD doing the whole thing. So that's why it's not listed here (on the board during the talk). It's a hygiene practice, but it's an adept hygiene practice. So when you're starting really to work with, well, what are you fundamentally within the Tao? And then you start controlling that, and you begin to realize, oh, wow, that's just freaky. And you have all sorts of freaky insights during that process. I forget how many months I lived that way, but after a while, it gets kind of strangely freaky. But basically, so that's one extreme example of hygiene in temple practice. Usually this is you just becoming aware of what you eat and what comes out of your body when you excrete. And so you get really familiar with that process of taking in stuff and putting it out. And that gradually moves into other things that you do. And so what happens? Let's say, you're in a temple which is a dedicated environment to practice. So what's coming into your senses. So we're not so much talking about what you're eating. In and out, has to deal with sensory information a lot of time. So what am I taking in in my eyes? What am I taking into my ears? And that comes from the people that I've surrounded myself, the building that I'm in, the weather that's around me, the overall atmosphere. If your hygiene is very productive to your enlightenment goal, it's easier to do. If your hygiene is very destructive to your enlightenment goal, it's difficult to do. And you can control this. The reason you want to control this is simple. It has an impact on you. Now, if you have no particular goal, and you're not trying to pursue karma, there's no reason to control hygiene. But let's take for example, one of the things that I.... An easy example, I was watching the A&E channel years ago, and they had a special on the Holocaust, and they were showing the dead that were just being heaped up and sorted after the war. And as I was watching that, I said, you know, I need to stop watching this. And so I stopped watching it. It's not that I didn't know that the Holocaust occurred, that I didn't know the numbers that occurred there, but I know my response in those situations, which would just be just kind of this maddening anger, and it's like, well, what am I going to do? Stop history? Obviously I can't achieve anything in those ends. And obviously it's not a productive outcome for my mind. Now, do I need that additional information repeatedly ground into me? No, I have the information as it is. So controlling that situation allows me to do other things besides simply being exposed to the same thing over and over again. Now, for example, if you're trying to learn positive action or positive frame, you don't want to immerse yourself in great negatives. It's much more difficult to do it that way. Positive frame will start off of that. Just as a quick example, that the classic example that I give over and over again. You're living on a desert island, beautiful beaches, great tropical rainforest, plenty of food, bananas, pineapples, coconuts, crabs, lobsters come up. They just bake themselves on the beach. All of that. That's half the island. The other half of the island has a boiling, hot volcano. Positive frame is choosing where you decide to live on that island, because basically, every single day, good things happen, and bad things happen. Some days, more bad things, some days, more good things. But you choose where you build your house. Now, if you build your house on the lava, I'm probably not going to visit you. Ah, if you build your house on the deluxe beach, you know, next to the self cooking food, all these other things, I'll probably visit you. Why? It's a nice place to be. And you can choose where you build your house. You cannot choose that the fact that there is lava there. You cannot choose the fact that there are self-cooking pristine beaches. But you can choose where you decide to live. And that's basically positive frame. Now, on some days, I can be vastly more difficult because the island can be mostly lava, but you still choose where you live. And this isn't “Every cloud has a a silver lining.” I've seen plenty of clouds, the vast majority of them don't have a silver lining. However, there's plenty of things other than clouds, and that's the thing to keep in mind. And as long as you start placing your mind here (on the beach)--The reason we don't spend a huge amount of time on what's positive action to start with, is because once you achieve positive frame, you'll start undertaking positive action. And by positive action, I'm not referring necessarily to compassionate action. I'm referring to positive approaches to achieving your goals. That happens automatically when you adopt this position (on the beach). The fact is that humans are vastly more powerful when they are positive. And even if they're evil, as long as they're positive, they are, vastly more powerful. And that's the thing to keep in mind. Nothing to do with good and evil...has to do with the human structure. You are built to be this way. So if you use it, easy gains. So we have the in and the out. So as you go along, if you're having trouble being in the positive frame, a couple things you have to look at: Well, do you have some calm? Because if you don't have some calm, it's going to be difficult to be in the positive frame. It just is, you're being swayed Willie-Nilly by anything that happens to comes along. Whatever disruption is in the environment, whatever good or bad happens. You focus on everything, because you don't have enough calm to make you resistant to those sudden changes. And that's the big thing with calm. With calm, you suddenly just start becoming resistant to those things. And it's magical. I'd like to give some sort of intellectual explanation for it, but it really is (magical). Basically, you go from being a system that's in a position it shouldn't be, to being the system that's in the position it should be. And things get really easy. Why you were supposed to be there, you know, it's kind of like a crab trying to fly. It's going to be a tough day for that crab all the time, because it was trying to fly. But now you let it walk sideways or go into the water. What's happening? It's doing fine. And the reason? When the system operates as it should, it's generally easier (to live). And so we take advantage of the natural strengths as we go along. Stillness is like--or calm--but it's really an extension of it that is an outgrowth of positive power and hygiene. Basically, the Tao itself is still. So, as you accomplish some stillness—inside, a lack of motion--you simply increase the rate of insight that you have. And the reason for this is simple. The social mind is a disruption. It floats on top of things. If you become still, then you can see that disruption. A portion of insight is both seeing what is disrupted and what is not disrupted. And as soon as you're doing that, you're in the process of insight. You can sit back and go, “Oh, wow!” None of that is actually real. And that is often times what is meant by the social mind, being an illusion. But really the only way to really tell that is to go there and take a look for yourself. And you accomplish that by certain means of stillness. And that allows you to detach from the disruption of the world. When you're detached from it, you can see it. Or when you're part of it, it's extremely difficult to see it. And that becomes a real source of difficulty. How do you accomplish that? By magic? You just shake a chicken bone. Actually you just do the first three. You do it enough, and you'll start acquiring some stillness. One day you'll just be sitting there and suddenly realize,”Oh, that's stillness.” There's no real reason to talk to anybody about it or do anything about it. You'll just be still. That takes time. By the way, stillness is not silencing the voice in your head. The voice in your head can still be going. You can be completely still (despite the voice). The difference is whether or not you are caught up in that verbal stream. And it really is like a stream. It just floats by you. You can listen to it. For example, I can hear the waterfall in the background, but I'm certainly not in the waterfall. I'm not overly concerned with the waterfall or any of those things. The same thing can occur with your voice. Now, if you're completely absorbed into a different thing other than your voice, you can pull enough of your attention away from it where it doesn't really exist for you. But you can, at the same time, do a lot of acts and simply have it working over here (in a different area). If it doesn't interfere with your acts, that's ok. You can be still and still have the voice of the world going on. It has nothing to do with you. Now, if it has something to do with you, well, then that's the problem. You're in the stream. And there are many different streams to be part of. That's just one of them as you go along. *** We hope you're enjoying this episode of Living the Tao- A Spiritual Podcast. This podcast is sponsored by the fine folks at Water Mountain. 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*** So what are the dangers of acceptance and what is the process? Acceptance is something that you have to absolutely grill yourself to do, because acceptance is acceptance of the conditions that exist right now. It is not a prediction of what the conditions will be in the future. And that's a big thing. Now, the more calm you have, the more positive power you have, the more hygiene, the more it's going to affect your rate of acceptance. Acceptance is vital because it allows you to move your nesses with great fluidity. Acceptance is the foundation of change, which is the odd part. So if we are sitting back and saying, this moment that exists right now will be the moment that exists is unchangeable, you're actually cutting off what acceptance is designed to do. Acceptance provides you with the foundation of altering what will be, instead of sitting back and saying, “This will always be.” So it's not a prediction of the future. Next, it requires you to do something very simple and know what you know by the five senses. Because if you accept illusion, you can end up in a really bad spot. I'd like to give you some other clue as to why that is. Basically, you have to sit back and the thing that you accept is-- “What have your five senses told you about this event so far?” What do I know when it comes to those things? Now, Taoists are renowned for having massive intuition about things, but intuition is actually across the five senses. It's just that, in the modern terms of things, as we've gotten jumbled into the New Age movement, it's been separated out. You only have the five senses. Even with chi, you are restricted to interpretations across the five senses. Now, because that's how your brain works. Now, we sit back and we ask, ”Well, what do I know about this given situation?” The things that you know according to your five senses? You must absolutely accept that they exist as they appear to at that given time. Now, anything that's an assumption based off those five senses, you know only as an assumption. Some things we only know because people have told them to us. That's just cultural knowledge. Sitting back and accepting that, “Well, this is simply cultural knowledge. I don't know it for any other reason than people have told me.” (The process) tells you how weak that or strong that information is. And that's part of the process of acceptance...because of why? Understanding that allows you to more easily sit back and go,”Well, the thoughts I'm having about this particular thing may in fact be wrong. Or the thoughts that everybody else are telling me (are wrong).” So this big bundle of cultural knowledge that comes to me about this or that does not fit my sensory experience. So...perhaps the cultural knowledge is wrong. And so you can straight out challenge things that are handed to you, that are simply sources of big cultural knowledge as it's dished over. And having that knowledge is important to the process of acceptance. The thing that you must always accept, and you must get yourself to accept, is that whatever your current position is, accept it. No matter how bad it is. No matter how unpleasant it is. No matter how pleasant it is. You simply need to accept that this is the thing as it exists. No matter what it's made out of. And then you can start digging into it if you want to. Well, you know, what are the five senses a part of this? What is this part over here? What is that part over here? And then you can sit back, and that's part of the process of acceptance. First thing, though, don't sit there going--here's a great benefit of acceptance--”It should be something other than it is.” Ah...maybe it should be something other than it is. But you're kind of standing in the way of your acceptance of the current situation that you're in. And because you're standing in that way, and because you're laboring yourself with this excuse of, “it should be something other than it is,” you become incapable of changing the thing as it is because of what you're caught up in: An expectation that is not realistic. Then you're just sitting there going,”Oh, it should be this way. It should be that way.” Well, what happens if instead of saying that, you say to yourself,”It is this way,” and you remove from yourself even the possibility of sitting back, saying,”It should be this way over here.” Now again, So we go back, and we start hitting our danger--I think in some ways, we have that problem of superimposing things as they should be onto a thing, because we don't want to cut ourselves off from the possibility of changing it, and at the same time, we don't want to really deal with the fact that it isn't the way it is. And those are two things, one good, one bad, that are mixed into there. But either way, it's a bad strategy. Your best result always comes from simply accepting the situation that is occurring and then choosing your action. If you get caught up in would 'ves or should 'ves or could 'ves, you just sit there forever, going, “Would 've, should 've could 've. “ And you can try it sometime. Just take any situation. Let's say you're eating meat loaf, and you sit back that evening and go, ”It should have been macaroni and cheese. It should have been macaroni and cheese. “ It could be the greatest meat loaf in the world. You're just sitting there talking about macaroni and cheese. And you may have, in fact, even cooked the meat loaf yourself, even planned the meat loaf, even done any of those things. But see where you get by just sticking that barrier up there and nailing it with something else. Well, if I had done really well in the stock market, this would have been something besides meat loaf . I don't have any stock. So as you can see, I can just make stuff up. That's the problem with layering that expectation on top. It can be anything. It can be completely random, and it doesn't have to make any sense. And it occurs on a regular basis. So it doesn't matter whether or not you think it's valid or not valid. You can basically saythis should have been served by a clown on stilts. It really should have been. I should be being served by a guy in a big Uncle Sam hat, twelve feet up on stilts with this huge spatula getting ready to flop it over onto my plate. So...you can create any expectation you want to, and you can generate any unhappiness you seek to--just by doing that. All it ever does is it prevents you from changing things in a direction that is more suitable. It is not a goal setting technique. It doesn't lead to productive behavior. And that is the great lesson of acceptance. So if you have something that restricts or holds your ness in a current position, almost always it's going to start off with a would've or should've or could've. And so because of those markers, it's relatively easy to track those things and simply go,”I'm just going to stop it.” And you can just do that. You just stop it. You have the ability to accept things. Humans are built for acceptance. If you weren't built for acceptance, what would happen? You'd go out hunting. You'd be tracking through the woods. You'd shoot at your rabbit (missing). Your rabbit would run off, and then you'd spend the whole afternoon going,”Man, I should have hit that rabbit.” And what happens? You go hungry, so does everybody else, depending on you. And that's what happens when you shoot at the rabbit and then spend your whole day being miserable because you miss the rabbit. What should you do? I miss that rabbit. Go hunt another rabbit. And that's the way it goes, because that's all you can do. That's the only place you can place your action. And that is actually the key to positive action. You have to act in a way that can actually achieve your goal. The human being has its greatest power, the ability to change. The fact that we are reluctant to do so, that we are engaged in all these things to supposedly prevent it, really says something about the strength that a human brings in. To engage in fiction that strongly, to make it so persuasive and to make it so strong. And so what we're really seeing, when we see the social mind, is misapplied strength. And if I sit back and simply say to you, well, you know, the social mind is a representation of weakness, or blah blah blah, or the failings of humans, which you'll oftentimes hear, and even other enlightenment traditions. It's a shortcoming of humans. It's not a shortcoming of humans. It's a strength of humans. It's basically think of, like, if you had children over here playing with little figures about something, and suddenly they were able to breathe life into them, and they were to run around, and everybody got caught up in the world, nobody would sit back saying, all those kids don't have any power or strength. They'd all say,”Hey, that's freaky power over there.” That's basically the situation with social mind. We've created a hugely persuasive fiction. Why it's that way? They built it that way. Those are the rules of the mind. The only way out of it is not to try to reason yourself out of the mind. The way out of it is just a leave. There is no way to destroy the mind. There is no way to reason yourself out of the mind. None of those things work. The way out is just, you know, it's like being at a bad party. Do you set out to change the party? It's like, well, you now...sometimes people want a bad party, and they really do. It's like, wow, you guys have made a real effort here to be miserable. What's the solution? You leave. Ah, you just get up and you leave. That's the only solution you have. And the reason you have that, as your only solution, is everybody else in that party has equal ability to you. They're choosing to have a bad party. Guess what? It's going to be a bad party, because there are more of them. Where is your control, what's your situation? You can leave. So you leave. Ah, that's why that's the path of enlightenment. If you want to try to change parties, you'll build a temple and get people to go. (People commenting on the new party) “That's not all that great of a party. I really don't like it when they smack my foot with a hammer.” It's like,“Well, you know, you kind of went to the foot-smacking party and you held up the sign that said, “smack my foot with a hammer.'” As we move into Taoism, what we're going to see with a lot of the practices is that one they're designed a lot like science, because they were founded on the same principles only 10000 years ago. And two, they make huge amounts of sense, because it's reality. Fiction can have any sort of thing associated with it as you want. We could, by social mind, develop the fact that everybody has to do a triple back flip before they can sit in a chair. That's great if you can do a triple back flip, it's not so comfortable if you can't. And so a huge stream of misery is going to be created by that process. Or you can just sit back and go,”You know, you don't actually have to do that.” You can just kind of like, you bend yourself at the knees, and you scoot your butt over to the chair, and then you kind of fall into it, and all the other stuff you don't have to do. And people go, “Yes, that is wise.” Is it really wise? You're just not doing back flips anymore. So, I mean, in a way, that's one of the reasons that you have Taoists, especially the farther you go, we become consistently more irreverent of certain things. And it's because it just looks silly as you start going farther and farther on. It's just, you know, if that hurts, why don't you stop doing that. You know that old joke? It hurts when I do this, well, don't do that. And...so that's really a lot of the, you'll have a lot of wise cracks in the adept texts and such. And that's the reason. It's really just a matter of they're not sitting back and pointing out that these are huge flaws. Are sitting back and going, ”This is a result of deliberate strength.” I mean, you've taken your strength and you've turned it to these ends. Your solution is don't do that, and turn it to these ends. And, you know, and to a certain extent, the problem is that you inherit the social mind, and that creates a great deal of its difficulty. You have to find your way out as you go along. *** We hope you've enjoyed this episode of Living the Tao--a Spiritual Podcast. Thank You