As long as you’re free to be more

Walden Pond ()

I am blessedly not on any social media. I have this Medium blog and a Pintrest and that’s it. But, as a single 30-something male, I have spent a fair amount of time on dating apps.

When on a dating app, one is obliged to make oneself as interesting and unique and extraordinary as possible. You must love adventure and be a world traveler (“Don’t swipe right if you can’t keep up.” Ok, calm down, Anthony Bourdain). The more tattoos you have the more interesting you are. …

For the 21st Century

Johnson Wang via Unsplash

Stoicism may be all the rage now, and I’ll always appreciate a good quote by Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius or Seneca or Ron Swanson (“Keep your tears in your eyes where they belong”), but Zen will always speak most clearly and profoundly to me. Of course, it’s not a competition. Stoicism and Zen are both very similar and very different; either or both can speak to anyone depending on that person’s need at the time.

The following is from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, compiled and edited by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki:

Soyen Shaku, the first Zen teacher to come…

Credit: Vasily Koloda @via Unsplash

I’ve never known how to be in the world, how to belong. I stand and move about trying to appear necessary and at ease, though I am chronically bewildered as a man who wakes up naked in the street and does not remember his name, where he is, how he got there, or where his clothes went. The world has always been inscrutable and intolerable for me, a constantly-shifting labyrinth of arbitrary circumstances in which I was dropped like a paratrooper behind enemy lines with no plan of attack or escape.

I like silence and solitude and not having to…

Looking out from the bluff
through an opening of trees —
across multitudinous buildings
of businesses and apartments
and homes huddled sleeping
like an endangered species —

the sound shimmers…

A long walk for fried rice

Seattle is, of course, known for getting lots of rain. But last week took the cake and drowned it in the puddle on the sidewalk in front of my house. An atmospheric river — which, according to the NOAA, is a long, narrow region in the atmosphere that carries an amount of moisture “equivalent to the average flow of water at the mouth of the Mississippi River” (?!) — drowned the city for several days. I’ve been here three years and gotten pretty used to the rain and gloom, but I have to admit, it’s been getting to me. …

There is still an aura of strangeness and sacredness around the ancient disease

Jesus Christ cures an epileptic boy. Attributed to the ‘’Third Painter of the Glajor Gospels’’, Armenia, 1st quarter of the 14th century. UCLA Digital Library Program.

It was the morning of my 8th birthday, a Saturday in June. I woke up excited for the day, as any eight-year-old would.

I ate my breakfast (Coco Puffs, I think) and started getting dressed. I suddenly felt strange. My head felt foggy. My body felt far away. It was like I was perceiving the world through a tunnel. I remember putting on one of my socks, and that was it.

The next thing I remember was being carried by my mother across a parking lot into urgent care.

The next thing I remember after that was waking up pinned…

We need to reclaim the contemplative life if we are going to stay sane

Photo mine, taken at Fort Worden State Park

People don’t know how to do nothing anymore and it’s really a shame. Even our vacations are filled with to-dos and our leisure time must be productive. There is freedom in not expecting to “get something out of” everything and everyone. Even self-improvement can become an ego trap if everything we do is meant to be used for our own self-aggrandizement. Is the pine tree an “improvement” on the pine cone, or are they simply just two different stages of being?

“When you are content to be simply yourself, and don’t compare or compete, everyone will respect you.” …

We have to learn to be okay with being wrong

Credit: Javier Marquez @jav0111 via Unsplash

I was raised in the American Evangelical Christian tradition. I went to a Christian high school and a Christian college. I am now what I like to call an Apatheist. Even at my most fervent and intense belief, though, I could never bring myself to believe in the complete, infallible, epistemic exclusiveness of the Christian worldview.

When an adherent of one religion speaks of other religions, the conclusion is usually foregone. From the point of view of a Christian, for example, Muslims are wrong because they don’t believe Christ is the Savior of the World. In other words, Islam is…

Anatta in a nutshell

Image Credit: Zac Durant via

Anyone familiar with Buddhism knows about the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. But not everyone is familiar with the Three Marks of Existence: dukkha, suffering (which is also the first of the Noble Truths); anicca, impermanence; and anatta, no-self.

The first two marks are pretty straightforward. Dukkha is usually translated as suffering, but it is more of a chronic dis-ease and existential disaffection rather than acute, overt suffering. No matter how easy our lives have been, we have all been disappointed when we’re made aware of the gap (often an untraversable chasm) between what we expect the world…

And how you can too.

Michele Henderson via Unsplash

I’ve always been a good writer. I’ve also always been incredibly lazy and unmotivated.

I remember in 8th grade I wrote an essay about the heart. It couldn’t have been very long because I remember my teacher read it right there in front of me. My memory may have been slightly embellished over the past [mumble-mumble]ty years, but I remember a genuine look of surprise as she read my paper and said, astonished, “You’re a good writer!” Part of her astonishment may have come from the fact that I wasn’t much of a student (lazy and unmotivated, remember?).

But I…

M Julian

30-something writer and recovering poet in Seattle.

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