Recently, I had the good fortune of interviewing Rajan Shankara for an episode of the podcast. you can listen to the full episode below.
Today I released the video of our conversation:\
Rajan is a former Hindu monk who lived the monastic life for 12 years. Almost a year ago he left the monastery and returned to the world. He’s now a personal trainer, a meditation teacher, and a life consultant.
We wanted to collaborate together in some way but, we just weren’t sure how. Since our initial contact I started my podcast and the time was finally right for us have a recorded conversation.
Rajan was an absolute pleasure to speak with. We talk about what pushed him into the process of taking up a spiritual path. We discuss his time spent as a monk, and what inspired him to leave monastic life. We compare notes between Zen and Hinduism, and we even touch on some big topics like ‘Enlightenment’. We had a great time and I really hope you enjoy it!
If you want shout-outs in podcasts and videos, if you want to get early access to videos, and if you’d like exclusive access to Patron only content, then check out my Patreon Page. For $3/month you get it all!
Be sure to check out my Website to stay up to date with what I’m up to, and feel free to hit me up on Social media – links below.
It’s Thursday. The week is coming to a close and yet, I feel like my week is just getting started.
Let me explain.
I live in Central Florida and if you’ve been following the news at all you may have seen that we’ve been living with the threat of Hurricane Dorian for the majority of the week.
I’ve lived here in Central Florida since I was eighteen. This was not my first hurricane experience but, the unpredictability of it is something you never quite get used to. When you’re waiting to see what happens or what’s going to happen, it’s like your whole life gets paused and everything is thrown into a perpetual and all-consuming “waiting”. You make preparations, you check the updates, you double check your preparations, you check for new updates, you make sure there are no gaps in your preparations, but ultimately you’re just waiting…
After a few days of “waiting” it’s difficult to distinguish what day it is, they all start to blur together.
Today is our return to normalcy.
We got lucky. Hurricane Dorian didn’t make land fall in Florida. Unfortunately, the Bahamas were not as lucky. My heart goes out to them. I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around what they’re going through and what they’re experiencing. My words fail. I know it doesn’t help but I’m sending them as much compassion and concern as I can.
Before the tumult of hurricane preparation took over our daily routine, I had the good fortune of interviewing Rajan Shankara. Rajan is a former Hindu monk who lived the monastic life for 12 years. Almost a year ago he left the monastery and returned to the world. He’s now a personal trainer, a meditation teacher, and a life consultant.
He and I began chatting near the end of year after we had both been guests on the Project Mindfulness podcast. (You can find Rajan’s episode here and mine here) We wanted to collaborate together in some way but, we just weren’t sure how. Since our initial contact I started my podcast and the time was finally right for us have a recorded conversation.
Rajan was an absolute pleasure to speak with. I had a great time talking with him. The impending storm pushed me behind schedule in editing the interview but, I’ll be starting that process today, and I’m hoping to have ready to release sometime before the end of next week.
I’m sorry to keep you “waiting” lol. If you want to listen to the latest episode of the podcast you can find it here and if you want to watch the video of the latest episode you can find it here.
Wish me luck.
Keep showing up, keep doing the work, FAIL BOLDLY, and let’s make something meaningful.
I sat down with Rev. Jerry Maynard. Rev. Jerry is a Priest, activist, and Interfaith Minister. He works within the Int’l Church of Mary Magdalene, which is a ministry of the Independent & Progressive Catholic Religious Order, Order of Mary Magdalene. He is also the founding pastor of The People’s Church.
In this conversation we talk about theology, atheism, activism, “liberation”, and so much more. I think you’re going to love it!
If you want to connect with Rev. Jerry you can find his social links below:
If you want shout-outs in podcasts and videos, early access to YouTube videos, and access to Behind-the-scenes Patron only videos, blogs, and photos, then check out my Patreon page. For $3/month you get it all! – www.patreon.com/duanetoops
And be sure to connect with my at the social links below:
If you want shout-outs in podcasts and videos, early access to YouTube videos, and access to Behind-the-scenes Patron only videos, blogs, and photos, then check out my Patreon page. For $3/month you get it all!
Be sure to connect with me at the social links below:
Hey friends! This is the transcript from one of my most recent podcast episodes titled “A Purposeful Purposelessness“. If you’d like to listen to the episode you can click the link above, listen below,
or you can find “The Process & The Path” on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, and any where else you get podcasts. Enjoy!
My favorite part of creating and sharing content are the conversations that follow. The conversations mean the most to me. Those conversations are where I learn the most. It’s that learning that is most important to me, it’s learning from those conversations that inspire me the most.
I was fortunate enough to receive some great feedback and some really interesting push-back from Jerome Shaw of The Open Palm Podcast.
He was struck by something I said in one of my previous podcast episodes titled “Something About Nothing“. I was talking about how I’m almost addicted to being busy, addicted to always doing something, or working on something. And, that sometimes I implicitly equate my worth and value as a person with my productivity. I almost instinctively tie my identity to what I “do”, to what I produce, and to what I create. Because of this compulsion to be productive at all times, I feel anxious and uncomfortable whenever I’m not doing anything, and I almost never really allow myself to do ‘nothing’. The one exception is my meditation practice. I said that the 20 minutes a day I sit in meditation is the only time during the day that I give myself permission to be unproductive.
That last remark is what caught his attention. He said that he wouldn’t be able to produce on the level that he does without his meditation practice. He described it as a slowing down to speed up. And, he said he feels as though he is producing tons when he sits. He remarked that even though you seem to be doing nothing, you are doing something.
First off, I really appreciate the push back. I love the engagement of curious and respectful rebuttals. Not only does is create quality conversation, it also deepens the understanding of all parties involved. Sometimes due to the constraints of the platforms we create and communicate on, we offer fast and dirty remarks, we provide our “hot takes”, when we should be more thoughtful. I feel like these moments when I get to respond to probing questions provides me with the opportunity to examine things more fully.
When we talk about the productiveness or un-productiveness of meditation, I think its really more a difference of semantics rather than a point of outright disagreement.
(I probably should say before going any further that I am in now way a meditation expert or teacher. I’m just a guy trying his best to figure all this shit out, while trying to talk about his personal experiences in a clear and understandable way.)
I agree with the image of meditation as a “slowing down to speed up”. I was in a really bad place for a few years and I had let go of any and all of my creative aspirations. It was practice meditation that awoke the creativity that I had allowed to become latent and dormant. It actually sparked and ignited a depth of creativity that I didn’t realize I had. My deepening practice of meditation was and is the catalyst behind all of my current creative work.
My engagement with meditation has been primarily within the Zen tradition. The style of meditation I practice is called “shikantaza” which translates to mean “nothing but sitting” or “just sitting”. We don’t sit to achieve something, to gain something, to produce something, or to do something. It is sitting only for the sake of sitting. It is a goal-less endeavor, a purposeless practice. It is sitting with no ulterior motive beyond simply sitting.
In fact, the instant we introduce an ulterior motive to this practice of meditation, it ceases to be meditation. In his book The Way of Zen, Alan Watts writes that “it is only when there is no goal and no rush that the human senses are fully open to receive the world.” He goes on to say that “The moment a goal is conceived it becomes impossible to practice the discipline of the art, to master the very rigor of its technique.” The discipline is the art. The practice is the goal. The process is the path…
Yet, meditation is an ambiguous exercise, a paradoxical practice. It’s an enacted contradiction. When we practice this kind of meditation we are “doing nothing” and yet, somehow, in some strange way, “something happens”. It reminds me of something I read in Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art. He writes that “Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying…Because when we sit down day after day and keep grinding, something mysterious starts to happen. A process is set into motion by which, inevitably and infallibly, heaven comes to our aid. Unseen forces enlist in our cause; serendipity reinforces our purpose.” He says that “When we sit…we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. insights accrete.”
When we put in the reps and build the muscle memory, when we consistently show up, for the sake of the discipline, for the sake of the practice, and for the sake of the art alone, something shifts within us. We find a flow that feels both foreign and familiar. We have changed and yet we have never been more the same. Everything remains in its place and yet somehow everything has been dramatically altered. So much of my time is spent striving towards a goal, pushing towards a desired end. I pray to more fully comprehend the practice of a purposeful purposelessness.
Usually when I make a piece of content about a particular subject it’s because its been buzzing around inside my brain for a while. In that regard, creating content around that idea is like scratching an itch in my mind. Most of the time that creative scratching provides relief from the intellectual agitation. But, sometimes…the mental tingling surrounding a certain subject doesn’t subside. Sometimes it lingers, and sometimes it spreads. Even after I’ve explored an idea in a video, a podcast, or blog, sometimes it still sticks with me. “Acceptance” is that kind of enduring itch…
I just came across a tweet from a blogger named Ben Simons that returned “acceptance” to the center of my focus. He wrote the following:
Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation. We can accept things as they are, without being resigned to them staying that way. In fact, that acceptance helps us to see the most skillful way to respond to our circumstances.
Needless to say, I find myself thinking more and more about “acceptance”, what it looks like on a day to day basis, what it means, and more specifically what it means to me.⠀But, I’m not sure why… ⠀ There’s a lot about myself I have trouble ‘accepting’. There are parts of myself that I just wish weren’t there. I’m moody, and socially awkward. I get easily disheartened and disillusioned. I’m prone to periodic bouts of depression and melancholy. I see the glass as perpetually half-empty. And, as you can probably tell, I’m pretty critical of myself as well. ⠀ I’m coming to understand that practicing acceptance doesn’t mean we have to like those things, and it doesn’t mean that we have to resign ourselves to the idea that we can’t change or that this is how we’re always going to be. Acceptance shouldn’t be confused with apathy or indifference, acceptance is something much more radical and subversive.
Acceptance is the realization that who we are cannot be concretized by our characteristics. We are more fluid than that. The wide openness of acceptance sees our story take place across a sweeping landscape, a broad horizon , instead of through the narrow tyranny of a judgmental gaze.
Acceptance is a kind of clear-sightedness. In the book From Mindfulness to Insight , authors Nairn, Choden , and Regan-Addis explain that “Our perception is obscured as soon as there is resistance and the impulse to struggle with what we don’t like”. They go on to say that “what we refuse to accept hangs around longer because our mind gets locked into resistance and, ironically, we hold on to the things we don’t like”. Acceptance is the recognition that before we can begin to see things differently we must first clearly see and understand the way things are.
Acceptance means that we refuse to be broken by our flaws. Instead we see simply see our shortcomings as bends along the path that we continually press forward upon. It’s easier said then done, believe me I know. Maybe that’s why it still itches…
I’ve made a few videos for my YouTube channel recently that are different from what I normally make. Maybe we could say they’re a bit more experimental, at least for me anyway. Whatever adjective is best suited to describe my burgeoning video work, its certainly been a departure and its certainly taken me out of my comfort zone.
I’ve come to realize that I’ve been taking myself and what I create too seriously, and I haven’t been giving myself room to experiment or space to play. So, I’ve been making it a point try to have a little more fun in the process.
In some ways, this realization, this shift, started when I watched a video on Daniel Pascual’s YouTube Channel. He made a vlog about nothing, purposefully and deliberately about nothing. He said he did it to take the pressure off and to kind of dumb things down a bit. That may not seem like much but, it really hit home for me. It was oddly refreshing and it felt like exhaling. I came face to face with how much stress and strain I’ve been putting on myself and my creative process. It made me recognize how little breathing room I’ve been giving myself.
I commented on the video saying that I should really try to do a video like that. Daniel encouraged me to do it, or maybe its better to say he challenged me to do it, lol. I accepted. Even though he and I are on opposite ends of the country he still scares the fuck out of me.
I really struggled to get my head around how to do a vlog about nothing. Believe me I know how ridiculous that sounds. I made more than one attempt. I hit record and tried to just go, unfortunately nothing went, lol.
After the false starts and failed attempts at Daniel’s “nothing” challenge, I took the family on a weekend camping trip. I brought my cameras with me. I was thinking that maybe I could vlog, or maybe take some cool shots. In other words, I went to accomplish something, to produce something, to do something. I felt like I needed to. Internally, there was a pressure to use this trip as a means of creating content. It felt like if I didn’t create something then I wasn’t really a creative and I wasn’t really a creator.
I took some OK shots, got some OK footage but, I just wasn’t feeling it. It felt forced and uninspired. It just wasn’t working. I started to get really frustrated about it, and started judging myself kind of harshly about it as well. I felt as though I should have been able to create something brilliant and beautiful on command.
Slowly, I realized that I needed to just put the gear away and just be present. I needed to give myself permission to do “nothing”. I needed to enjoy just being there. This moment wasn’t about creating, producing, or doing. It was simply about being; being with my wife, being with my kids, being with our friends, being exactly where I was.
If I’m being honest, doing “nothing” is disconcerting. It makes me uncomfortable. I place an extremely high premium on productivity, on producing, on doing “something”. So much so that I almost never allow myself to really do nothing.
I’m addicted to “doing”.
The addiction to doing came up when I Interviewed Stuart Carter from the Simply Mindfulness YouTube channel on an episode of my podcast. Stuart reminded me that “we are not human doings, we are human beings“. He pointed out that “We so often get caught in ‘I must do this to have value, I must do this to have worth’, when actually just being is all we need.”
Intellectually, I know that my value isn’t predicated on what I produce or what I accomplish. But, I still fall into the trap of equating who I am with what I do. I attach my self-worth and my identity to what I create. Daniel’s exercise showed me how much of that desirous craving for production has invaded my creative endeavors.
I returned from our camping trip with a clearer head, a clearer view of my obsession with “doing something”. But, I had no clearer idea of what my “nothing vlog” would be.
Recently my wife started doing some wood-working projects and she decided to refinish our Corn-hole boards. As I sat frustrated and bewildered, I noticed her begin to set-up for this refinishing project. The thought occurred to me that it might be fun to film her working on it. I needed the break and she welcomed my company. I had no plans for the footage, no goal, no purpose, it was just about play. It was more fun than I even imagined it would be. Once I edited the footage I knew I had to share it. I had inadvertently stumbled upon my nothing vlog. You can watch it below:
This exercise taught me about myself and my creative process. It taught me to accept the opportunities that show up; whether it seems productive or not, and whether it seems purposeful or not.
There is a way of being creative that is more about probing than about producing. There is a way of creating that exposes the limits of what we can create. There is a way of ‘being’ that gives witness to the exceeding abundance of what we can experience.
Working with the medium of video is teaching me to document the dynamic discovery of every daily detail. It does not tell me to do something different or to be something different. Instead, it tells me to see differently, to “Be” differently. We are presented with the opportunity to begin seeing in a whole new way, an opportunity of “Being” in a whole new way.
Sometimes storytelling isn’t about creating a story but, about simply finding where we are in the midst of a much bigger story.
Maybe this wasn’t the vlog about nothing that Daniel would have wanted me to make but, it’s the one that represents where I am now.
I’m so excited to share this episode. I got the amazing opportunity to interview one of my favorite writers and thinkers, Eric G. Wilson.
A few months back I made a video and a podcast talking a little bit about one his books, Against Happiness.
Here’s the video:
And, if you want to listen to the podcast episode you can find it below:
That video put me in touch with both Eric and his podcasting partner, Joel Tauber. I was fortunate enough to have Joel as a guest on a previous episode of the podcast:
If you want to watch the video, here ya go!
You can also read a little bit more about it here and here.
Their podcast, which we talk about in the episode, is called Belt: A 2-Man Memoir. Its funny, smart, and irreverent.
This is an incredible conversation. I’m so unspeakably grateful to Eric for taking the time.
As the title of this episode suggests, we talk a lot about meaning and melancholy. But, we also talk quite a bit about creativity, writing, failure, religion, spirituality, and so many other rich and dynamic subjects.
Here are a few of his books that we talked about in the episode:
I hope you enjoy this episode. If you do, it would mean the world to me if you subscribe to it on whatever platform you’re listening to it on, leave it a good review and share with your friends.
If you’d like to support this work of learning out loud, contribute to creating a community of curiosity then please check out my Patreon page. For $3 a month you get shout-outs in all my videos and podcasts, you early access to all my YouTube video before they are released to the general public, and you get access to exclusive behind-the-scenes Patreon only blogs, videos, and photos.
Keep showing up, keep doing the work, FAIL BOLDLY, and let’s make something meaningful.
A few weeks ago I got to do an interview with YouTuber extraordinaire Jack Stolz. I’ve written about it here and here.
Podcast episode below:
Jack is a musician, a vlogger, photographer, cinematographer, and all around awesome guy!
Jack has played a big part in my process of dipping my toes into videography and YouTube. As a result, Jack has become a good friend and he continues to inspire me.
Whether he realizes it or not, Jack has been with me throughout most of this endeavor, in one form or another. He’s been a big encouragement. He has continually made himself available to talk shop, to provide helpful tips and advice, and to give feedback.
It probably goes without saying it was great to spend some extra time talking with him. It was an even greater pleasure to do it for the podcast!
If you want to support this work of learning out loud, if you ‘d like to help create a community of curiosity, and if you’d like to get access to exclusive, behind-the-scenes, Patron only content, and get shout-outs in videos and podcasts, then check out my Patreon page.
Keep showing up, Keep doing the work, FAIL BOLDLY, and let’s make something meaningful!
Last week I shared a pretty ambitious to-do list. Even though I probably bit off a more than I could chew, I was still productive.
For starters, I said that I wanted to start creating some videos that were a little less serious and a little more fun. I did that. I made a video called “Just For Fun” (full video below).
Next, I wanted to finish editing and post the video of my interview with Jack Stolz. Check! You can find that down below:
Also, if you want to listen to the podcast episode with Jack Stolz…I got you. Its right here:
Finally, I wanted to finish writing Part Two of my series on the book From Mindfulness to Insight. Also, I wanted to finish editing the video of Part One. Well, this one got partially checked off. I finished writing Part Two and sent it off to The Tattooed Buddha. Hopefully that will be going live soon. I’ll keep you posted. But, I didn’t get to start on the video for Part one. (If you want to read the Part One article you can find it here or if you’d like to listen to the Part One podcast, it’s down below:
With that being said, this week I really want to get the Part One video done and posted.
A few months back I actually made a video featuring the book Against Happiness, and that opened the doors to meeting Eric and Joel. You can find that video below:
Anyway, I want to start editing the audio of my interview with Eric G. Wilson this week. I won’t promise that I’ll get it done this week but, I plan on putting a dent in it. That’s whats at the top of my to-do list!
If time permits I’d also like to try to add another fun vlog to my to-do list and maybe try to bring some of that new found lightheartedness to a podcast episode, a ‘just for fun’ podcast episode. Sounds like fun anyway, lol. Fingers crossed!
Keep showing up, Keep doing the work, FAIL BOLDLY, and let’s make something meaningful.