Tag Archives: vipassana

A Slow Day for Blogging

Friends,

A couple of days ago my friend Matt challenged me to answer something he called the “Proust Questionnaire.”

Really? An opportunity to talk more about myself? Challenge Accepted!

Also, our mutual friend, Adriana put hers up on her blog, “Des Etoiles Filantes,” and I thought I would do the same.

So without having done any research on what the questionnaire is all about or what it helps determine, here are my answers:

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness? -The absence of craving and aversion.

2. What is your greatest fear? -That a mechanistic worldview which views human beings as nothing more than biological machines, is true.

3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? -Laziness.

4. What is the trait you most deplore in others? -Intransigence.

5. Which living person do you most admire? -There are certain people in my life who have inspired me to follow my dreams and i would say it is cumulatively them.

6. What is your greatest extravagance? -My morning coffees.

7. What is your current state of mind? Benevolent mostly, peppered with self-doubt, enthusiasm, and amusement.

8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? -Hard work. Hard work should be applied toward virtuous things but it isn’t a virtue unto itself.

9. On what occasion do you lie? -Any time I say what objectively happened in a given situation and informing that account with only my own limited observations and perceptions.

10. What do you most dislike about your appearance? -My posture needs work and my abs aren’t as hard as I’d like them to be. I’ve come to terms with my crooked jaw though and actually see it as a blessing in disguise.

11. Which living person do you most despise? -I don’t really despise anyone but I am averse to Bill Maher. He’s just kind of a smarmy, slimy dude who perpetuates a cynical faux-intellectualism.

12. What is the quality you most like in a man? -Follow-through.

13. What is the quality you most like in a woman? -Taking action to remedy their problems instead of just idly complaining about them.

14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? -Lately, I have been using the phrase “elephant in the room” quite a bit.

15. What or who is the greatest love of your life? I’m tempted to say my ex, but it would actually be myself/everyone. I try to love everyone as myself.

16. When and where were you happiest?
-First year residence in Matthews Hall.
-January 2009 in Afghanistan.
-Anytime I sat with a drink and/or smoke and/or listening to Gordon Lightfoot and watched the sun set while on a backpacking excursion.
-Oct. 2008, out in the middle of nowhere in the Afghan desert on a three week patrol, sitting in a trench under a beautiful blue sky, shitting into a bucket with my pipe in one hand and my coffee in the other and thinking “This isn’t so bad.”

17. Which talent would you most like to have? -Pro-level skateboarding parkour and freestyle rapping

18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? -My shitty Riddler tattoo has to go.

19. What do you consider your greatest achievement? -Escaping the anger phase of my awakening process/not succumbing to hate.

20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? -I’d like to come back as a squirrel in a lush forest that was warm year-round and have no natural predators. The squirrel life would be fun .

21. Where would you most like to live? -On a deserted island in the South Pacific.

22. What is your most treasured possession? I guess my dog-tags are, but I don’t really like the idea of treasured possessions. If they ever go I hope I will have serenity to not grieve too hard.

23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? -There was one night back in Spring 2007 where I had gotten some bad news, ate a few too many weed cookies and ended up having the worst, most emotionally painful night of my life. More than anything I felt alienated and like I had wasted a year of my life. Looking back it was one of my most important single instances of growth. Not gonna say too much more than that but it was one of those wake-up calls that come when we need them.

24. What is your favorite occupation? -None.

25. What is your most marked characteristic? -Sense of humor, eyes, or affinity for wife beaters, camo and bandanas.

26. What do you most value in your friends? -Comfort. I like people I can be myself around.

27. Who are your favorite writers? -Orwell, James Clavell, Gary Jennings and Cervantes. Tolle writes beautifully and Vizinczey makes profound observations.Thoreau too has shaped my outlook with his beautiful observations about living in harmony with the natural world.

28. Who is your hero of fiction? -Venom. Or Jesus. I try and emulate the latter more.

29. Which historical figure do you most identify with? -Marco Polo.

30. Who are your heroes in real life? -Peter Joseph, George Carlin, Russell Brand, Bill Hicks, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and myself.

31. What are your favorite names? -Natasha and George.

32. What is it that you most dislike? -Righteous Indignation.

33. What is your greatest regret? -Letting a girl get between me and a dear friend.

34. How would you like to die? -Serenely.

35. What is your motto? “There’s nothing to be afraid of; It’s just me out there.” -George Carlin

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo
Instagram: @dreguan
Twitter: @dreguan
Youtube: dreguan
Facebook: Andre Guantanamo
IMDb: Andre Guantanamo
Demo Reel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gdwhemiqzc

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Being Mindful of Transgressions

Friends,

The video counterpart for this post can be found here.

A few years back I attended a Vipassana meditation retreat in Cooksville, Ontario. It was a ten-day retreat based on the teachings of S.N. Goenka, and in addition to the long hours of meditation there were also a series of observances each attendee was required to accept. The complete list escapes me, but the most important ones were: no talking, no electronics, no eating of meat, no killing another living creature, no meals after midday and NO STEALING. Quite unexpectedly, this last observance was problematic for me and breaking this guideline led to perhaps my greatest lesson about mindfulness,

It was late February and snowy during the retreat and when entering the meditation hall we would ditch our jackets and boots in the foyer area which would, not surprisingly, get wet and dirty. At one point I was the last one into the hall and since the outer door was ajar and my own boots were a pain to slip on and off, I slipped into someone else’s boots to close the door. Instantly, and very unexpectedly I was overcome with a feeling of guilt; I had just stolen.

Was it temporary theft? Yes, only three to five seconds.

Did it cause any deprivation? No, the owner of the shoes was already in the hall starting his practice.

Was it for a good purpose? Yes, I was closing the door to keep us all warm.

But I knew all of that didn’t matter from a morality perspective.

Now, at this point I want to reiterate that I don’t really buy into morality myself, but I still was troubled because the person who owned the boots likely did. And this transgression, paltry and trifling though it may have been, was still an act of theft.

I brought this up to one of the meditation leaders, Bob at the next day’s optional counseling session. He was shocked when I mentioned I had stolen but as he heard me out he asked if, out in the real world I would have thought twice about slipping on those shoes. I told him “probably not.” According to him, it was a good thing to have happened because it showed that I was starting to think in more mindful terms, looking at the implications of my actions and considering the damage they could do in their ultimate expressions (i.e. larger theft, mugging or the taking of life-giving essentials). For me, it was an important beginning of looking at the things I was doing in my life and extrapolating them out to their logical conclusions and ultimate ends.

I think that very often we glaze over the fact that we let our ends justify our means because the negative means we employ on a day-to-day basis very often seem so trifling and paltry. For example, we would all likely have at least some compunction about taking a life, even if it was for the positive end of saving many. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s called empathy and it’s a good thing. However, our empathy is rarely sensitive or trained enough to consider that even something comparatively benign, say the act of marking up a price so that you can feed your own family, even that is a negative means for an ostensibly positive end. It is causing deprivation to one group to alleviate the deprivation of another. Survival at the expense of others cheapens the lives of all.

I don’t mean to come down on anyone here who has to eke out their survival at the expense of others. If that was my intent, I would be coming down on everyone including myself; such is the nature of our competitive socio-economic system: we are all complicit in instituting deprivation against each other. Nor do I mean to give a scathing indictment of our current scarcity-based socio-economic system; I have done that ad nauseum and I will certainly do so again at certain points in the future. Rather, I simply mean to shed light on the fact that we should be mindful of our actions, no matter how trifling or benign they seem and be aware that if those actions were amplified by orders of magnitude, they just might be more violent and deprivation-causing than we realize.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo
Instagram: @dreguan
Twitter: @dreguan
Youtube: dreguan
Facebook: Andre Guantanamo
IMDb: Andre Guantanamo
Demo Reel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gdwhemiqzc

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