Harold Ramis Five-Minute Buddhist Pocket Guide: Item #4 – The Five Aggregates

The Five Aggregates – “Being” is experienced as:

1. Matter

2. Sensation

3. Perception

4. Mental Formation

5. Consciousness

— From Harold Ramis’ Five-Minute Buddhist Pocket Guide 

In each of the five aggregates, change is inevitable and happens frequently. But to the egocentric person, they view the first, matter, as solid and unchanging. But as physicists have told us, beneath the seemingly solid and unchanging surface of physical reality, matter teems with activity. Atoms and molecules dance around in frenetic, subatomic patterns that would put participants in “Dancing With Stars” to shame.

That’s why, to me, a simple thing like a traffic light is so illuminating beyond merely lighiting up red, green or yellow (amber). When you look closely at a traffic light, you realize the color isn’t solid. The “solid” light consists of numerous smaller circles that stand so closely together that from a distance, it appears solid. To me, it’s a reminder that things often aren’t what they appear to be and that perceptions are open to interpretation.

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To the person who views themselves as different and separate from the rest of the universe, their view of matter tends to extend to the other four aggregates, particularly to #3 – perception and #4 — mental formation.

In regards to #4, once an egocentric person forms an opinion and a mental position on a person, place, or situation, it becomes so solidly entrenched that it’s amazingly difficult for them to change their view of someone or something. While this can be convenient, the person doesn’t think twice about their view, it’s also extremely confining. Like being in jail. It’s nice because you don’t have to worry about going to work, cooking your own meals or paying bills, but it also keeps you from doing fun things like playing golf or going for a walk with your dog.

As for #3, the person’s perceptions are so weighed down with the need to use whatever or whomever they perceive as a means to make themselves look better, to justify their own actions, self-image, or beliefs, that it’s next to impossible for them to see the true nature of whatever they encounter. People see what they want to see is a saying brimming with the frothy tastes of truth.

The life of Jesus is a prime example. Christians buy into all the miracles portrayed in the Bible, including THEE miracle of all miracles, Jesus’ resurrection and subsequent ascension into heaven to join God the Father. Non-believers don’t accept those supposedly (from a Christian perspective) miraculous events because the biblical accounts of Jesus were written long (about a century) after Jesus died by people with an agenda: portray Jesus as the Son of God and a savior for all of humanity (well, all humans who believe in Jesus).

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Sensation (#2) is an intriguing mixture of the physical body and the brain-mind. The origin of pain and pleasure is the physical body but the sensation doesn’t happen if there’s no a mind to perceive it. And sensation is largely subjective. People with chronic pain adjust to the presence of the unwanted intruder. They still experience the unpleasant sensation but their body and mind has woven the existence of pain into the fabric of that person’s consciousness: “Yes, I feel pain but I’m used to it and even though I take pills to ease my pain, it’s still there.” They accept it and by not resisting the pain, they make it easier to deal with its presence.

And now onto the mother lode of the Five Aggregates, consciousness.

Siddhartha Gautama, who is commonly known as the Buddha, meaning “the awakened one”. According to Buddhist tradition, the Buddha lived and taught in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinentsometime between the 6th and 4th centuriesBCE.[1]He is recognized by Buddhists as anawakenedor enlightened teacher who shared his insights to help sentient beingsend their sufferingthrough the elimination of ignoranceand cravingby way of understandingand the seeing of dependent origination, with the ultimate goal of attainment of the sublime state of nirvana. — Wikipedia

If the Buddha was awakened, then the majority of people living today are living in self-induced trance, similar to person who walks in their sleep. Their quality of consciousness is considerably less enjoyable and desirable than of the Buddha’s enlightened or awakened state. I was like that for over 50 years. I was so busy trying to satisfy the fictional “me” that supposedly existed somewhere either in my mind or “out there” in the cosmos. I thought there was a Lee Eide that was separate from all other sentient beings who I had to take care of by getting things (craving and attachment) and making me loook better and satisfying all my needs and urges. If that meant compromising the quality of life for other people, so be it.

In my mind, understanding the true nature of things changes the way one views each of the five aggregates. Matter, sensation, perception, mental formation and consciousness are all seen as fluctuating, temporal, fleeting and impermanent states of being. As such, one can’t possess anything and shouldn’t want to attach themselves to the illusionary idea that one can ever “have” anything. All life is experienced and then the life experience, whatever it is, goes away to give way to the next miraculous and marvelous experience.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Author’s Books:

Overcome Any Personal Obstacle, Including Alcoholism, By Understanding Your Ego” – http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/leewriter

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Book site of my novel, “Dead Man’s Plan”: http://bookstore.xlibris.com/Products/SKU-0060704049/Dead-Mans-Plan.aspx

Also available on Amazon.com.

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Aftermath / Welcome to the Revolution.

Aftermath / Welcome to the Revolution..

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Horny Male Transsexual and Two Mormons: The Last Two Parties Who Really Wanted to Come to My Home

Horny Male Transsexual and Two Mormons: The Last Two Parties Who Really Wanted to Come to My Home.

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I was a Raging Alcoholic but my True Problem: Separation Addiction (Thanks a Lot, Ego)

I wrote “Overcome Any Personal Obstacle, Including Alcoholism, By Understanding Your Ego” – http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/leewriter – with two major goals in mind: 1) Understand why and how my wife Amy of over 19 years committed a slow suicide via alcohol and why I too nearly destroyed my life even though we both knew alcohol was the last thing we should have been consuming; and 2) share my “come to Jesus/Buddha” insights with others who want to overcome whatever addiction they’re in the spell of. This blog is an extension of the fundamentals from that book.

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Until two days ago, I thought I understood that my problem from about 2000 through 2010 was that I was a practicing, dysfunctional alcoholic who couldn’t stop drinking. On the surface, that was true. Upon a further, deeper review (it’s like having a crew of NFL officials and high-tech video equipment at one’s disposal only instead of disputed plays, you examine the truth of your life), I found my real problem: I was addicted to separating myself from the rest of the universe.

That obsession with “it’s me against the world) is symptomatic of an egocentric mindset or what Paul Levy calls ME or Malignant Egophrenia (http://www.realitysandwich.com). When you buy into the ego’s (Satan’s) powerful, alluring argument – you’re better, more important and more deserving of getting the good things than anyone else simply because you’re you – that also means you erect imaginary but very real psychic walls that separate you from your fellow citizens of Planet Earth. And that isolation colors everything you do.

For me, thinking I was fundamentally different than everyone else allowed me to justify foolish actions and inactions on my part. The inaction piece of that equation was my not having a long, serious dialogue (or series of dialogues) with Amy about our respective addictions to alcohol and how we could address our issues.

On the flip side, my unwise actions included drinking margaritas with beer chasers during my lunch break from my accounting job in Eden Prairie (2006); going home to drink during my lunch hour and not returning to work for over two hours (also 2006); mixing Trazadon (sleeping aid) with alcohol (2005-2006); going on two- and three-day binges (one resulted in a trip to the St. Paul detox); drinking too much and driving (2006); going on 4- and 5-day binges that landed me in the Hastings detox four times (2010); and a plethora of other stupid acts too numerous to mention here.

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The symptom of my problem was drinking too much, too often at the wrong time and in the wrong situations. But what I was really addicted to was separation. Separation from my problems, separation from taking responsibility for my actions (and my failure to act),  separation from the courage to address my issues head on, and separation from thinking or feeling. In Pink Floyd terms, I was obsessed with being comfortably numb. The problem the alcohol kept wearing off and I was stuck having to deal with all the bad karma I created by running from my problems for so long. What my egocentric mindset started — a gap or separation from the rest of the universe — alcoholism exacerbated so much that I had effectively dropped out of the human race. I stood on the sidelines and watched real people deal with their issues, sometimes fail miserably but at least they were trying, and also celebrate their triumphs. 

The good news about completely screwing things up for a significant part of your life is that if you accept the foolishness of your actions, which is to say you embrace Anatta, which literally means “Not-Self,” or that there is nothing about us that does not change, nothing about us that is permanent. And that includes an addiction to separation which leads to an addiction to alcohol. 

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The “Bad” Path to Sobriety & Wisdom: Season 5, Episode 7 – “Say My Name”

Walter is the Lebron James of cooking meth — he’s the best at what he does and doesn’t mind saying it.

Last week, Walter-Jesse-Mike Meth Inc. appeared to going out of business. Two of the three partners, a majority obviously, wanted out of the business. But when Walter starts out in a poor bargaining position, he finds a way to improve it. This time he accomplishes it by stealing and holding the methylamine hostage in his and Skyler’s car wash. Mike can’t kill Walter, as much as he’d like to, because Mike doesn’t know where the prized asset is at.

So Mike, Walt and Jesse meet Declan — their potential buyer — out in the desert. Walt squelches the methylamine deal but offers Declan a 35% stake in the business if he agrees to distribute Walt’s meth and pay Mike his $5 million as a finder’s fee.

Declan is confounded by Walt’s galling demands,”Who the hell are you?”

Walt declares that he’s the cook — the man who killed Gus Fring. “Say my name,” Walt demands. “You’re Heisenberg,” says Declan.

“You’re goddamn right,” Walt growls.

Declan leaves. Jesse reminds Walt he wants out, too, asks when he’ll get his $5 million. Walt evades the question and asks for more time to get set up with the new crew.

At Vamonos, Mike reiterates that he’ll pay the legacy costs out of his own pocket, but that the last outstanding threat is the bug in Hank’s office. He curtly tells Walt to retrieve it. Walt storms off when Mike refuses to thank him for brokering the deal with Declan. Jesse says good-bye to Mike, repeats that he’s leaving the business. Mike clearly doesn’t buy it. They shake hands as Walt eyes them from the office.

Walt and Jesse retrieve the methylamine from the car wash. Fearing it will attract danger, Skyler demands to know what it is and why Walt was hiding it. Walt deflects Skyler’s questions, suggests she return to the office. Jesse stares sadly after her.

Dan Wachsberger — the lawyer for Mike’s imprisoned guys — visits a bank and stacks money in various safety deposit boxes. He puts the remaining cash in a larger box, along with an envelope that reads, “To Kaylee on her 18th birthday.”

Dan joins Mike in his car. “I guess this is it for a while,” he says, assuring Mike that his men’s families will continue to get their hazard pay.

Out in the desert, Mike listens to Hank’s bugged office via his laptop and learns that a search warrant for his home has just been expedited. Mike uncovers a hidden and abandoned well and tosses the laptop inside, along with a large cache of guns: he’s closing up shop so he can make a run for it.

At an airport parking lot, Mike stores a duffel bag in his trunk, hides the car keys nearby and hails a cab home. Shortly after, Hank and a crew of DEA agents arrive to search Mike’s apartment, but find nothing. Hank glares at Mike, stymied.

At Vamonos, Jesse again tells Walt he’s ready to collect his money and quit. Walt tries to change Jesse’s mind, offering him his own lab. When that fails, Walt asks why Jesse would squander his cooking skills. “What have you got in your life? Nothing, nobody,” Walt taunts.

Jesse angrily asks how many more people have to die at their hands. Walt counters that if Jesse is concerned about that, he has no business wanting any blood money. “Whatever man, you don’t wanna pay me? I don’t care. It’s on you, Jesse says, abandoning Walt. Walt impotently flings a few more words at Jesse, but it does no good. He’s gone, leaving Walt alone.

Via teleconference, SAC Ramey chastises Hank for obsessing over the Fring case and shirking his new duties as ASAC. To prevent further waste, he kills the budget for the surveillance of Mike Ehrmantraut. Undeterred, Hank instructs Gomze to trail Dan Wachsberger. Gomez is reluctant to tail a lawyer, but concedes: “You’re the boss.”

Walt suits up and enters the cooking tent, where Todd awaits as his new assistant. Todd takes copious notes as Walt explains the cooking process. When they finish the batch, Todd admits he’s overwhelmed.

“You applied yourself, that’s as much as I can ask,” Walt encourages, then brings up money. Todd says they can talk money once he gets the job right.

Back at the bank, Gomez and his men walk in on Dan as he makes another round of legacy payments. Dan’s caught, red-handed; Gomez grins.

Walt visits Hank at work. Again he sobs about his marital problems, asks Hank for coffee. Walt removes the bug before Hank returns, then overhears Gomez briefing Hank on the Wachsberger interrogation: “He’s willing to give us Ehrmantraut,” Gomez says, celebrating with Hank.

Mike watches Kaylee play in the park; he receives a call from Dan, who requests a meeting. Mike senses something is wrong, but doesn’t notice anything amiss in the park. Walt calls and frantically warns him the DEA is coming for him. A patrol car drives up, and cops flank Mike’s car, searching for him. Mike steals one last look at Kaylee, then flees the cops who close in.

In his office, Saul worries that Mike will flip if captured. “He won’t flip,” Jesse insists, but Walt worries that one of his nine men will. Mike then calls, asking Saul to fetch his go-bag. With the police watching Saul’s movements, and Jesse out of the business, Walt volunteers to retrieve it.

At the airport, Walt grabs the duffel bag from Mike’s car and opens it, finding cash, a passport, and a holstered revolver inside.

Walt meets Mike in a remote area near the Rio Grande. Walt Hands over the duffel bag, insists Mike reveal the names of his nine men. Mike refuses, rants at Walt for ruining a “good thing” by destroying Gus’s empire.

“It was perfect, but no you just had to blow it up,” Mike sneers. “You and your pride and your ego, you just had to be the man. If you’d done your job, known your place, we’d all be fine right now.”

Walt storms off, infuriated, but quickly doubles back toward Mike.

Meanwhile, Mike opens the duffel bag in his car and finds the revolver missing from its holster. Immediately Walt appears outside his window and fires.

Mike slams the car into gear and drives off, but quickly crashes into a nearby rock. Walt, in shock, cautiously approaches the car and finds it empty. He follows Mike’s blood trail into the reeds by the Rio Grande, where Mike is sitting quietly on a rock, bleeding to death.

Walt gently takes another gun from Mike’s hand and looks off, dazed. “I just realized that Lydia has the names,” Walt says. “I’m sorry, Mike, this whole thing could’ve been avoided if—”

Mike cuts him off: “Shut the f—— up and let me die in peace,” he says.

Walt and Mike stare silently at the river until Mike slumps over, dead.

And that’s it for this episode. Mike nails it when he declares, “You and your pride and your ego, you just had to be the man. If you’d done your job, known your place, we’d all be fine right now.” He’s saying in relationship to Mike’s own precarious situation but it’s applicable to Walter White’s character in general. Had not  Walter taken down Gustavo Fring and then destroyed the superlab, Mike would have been still reaping the benefits of the Gus drug empire.

And there’s the line to Jesse when Walt is trying to keep Jesse in the business: “What have you got in your life? Nothing, nobody,” That’s awfully presumptuous of Walt. I know it might appear that way as Jesse hasn’t really had a real job since high school. The one thing he’s done to make money is sell meth but how does Walt know Jesse won’t find a legitimate career that will make him happy? Or how does Walt know Jesse won’t meet that special someone so there is someone in his life. But again, Walter isn’t about speaking the truth. He’s about manipulating people into doing what he wants them to do in order to further Walt’s ends. Walter has to speak the truth sometimes otherwise no one will believe his lies. So he intersperses his litany of lies of with morsels of truth. The resulting symphony soars with gaudy pomp and circumstance but its dark undertones are more than a little unsettling.

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Alcoholics and addicts tend to feel they have no one or nothing in their life so that’s why they get drunk/high. But if they stop using, maybe they’ll find really cool people to connect with and incredibly exciting opportunities to find things that will make them happy. Like Jesse getting out of the meth business, substance abusers who quit using have an monumentally exciting, albeit frightening, chance to discover how exciting and beautiful the world really is.

If you want inspiration, motivation and ancient but timeless insights to aid you in your journey towards sobriety, go to http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/leewriter.com or Amazon and look up “Overcome Any Personal Obstacle, Including Alcoholism, By Understanding Your Ego.”

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Live Free and Beyond Your Ego’s Constraints, Learn from Walter White in BREAKING BAD, Season 1, Episode 7 – “A No-Rough-Stuff-Type-Deal”

For a complete episode summary, go to http://www.amctv.com. Image

Walt and Skyler attend faculty and parents meeting to give the latter an update on the chem-lab thefts, and Walt surprises Skyler by rubbing her thigh underneath the table. Later they have wild six in their car that’s parked on school grounds. Skyler: “Where did that come from? And why was it so damn good?” Walt: “Because it was illegal.”

Walt and Jesse meet Tuco, end up with agreement whereby Walter-Jesse Meth Inc. will make four pounds of meth for Tuco (instead of two like before) but they must pay the drug dealer 25%/week until they reach the production target. Walt improvises different production level so they don’t have to buy hundreds of packages of sinus pills to use for pseudo. Then instead of hiring two guys (at $10K price), they extract powder from sketch toys to create thermite that they use to blow off door at a warehouse that’s got the key missing chemical to cook Walt’s blue crystal.

They lock the security guard in a Port-a-Potty, use thermite to perfection and make off with the desired chemical. But the RV won’t start so the two choose to cook in Jesse’s basement. In a comical turn of events, unbeknownst to Jesse, his real estate agent has set up an open house for that afternoon. So while the master cooks meth, Jesse plays bouncer/bodyguard to make sure no prospective homeowners come downstairs.

In quite possibly the funniest line of the entire series (to me), in order to keep a man from coming downstairs, Jesse yells, “Occupied”. The man is taken aback, says, “This isn’t a bathroom.” Then Jesse becomes desperate, emerges from the basement and declares the house is no longer for sale.

Walt and Jesse bring the finished product out to what Jesse at their prior meeting calls “a non-criminal’s idea of a drug meet”. Tuco is curious to know why the meth is blue. They used a different process, Walt tells him. Tuco is ecstatic about the results.

“Blue, yellow, pink. Whatever, man. Just keep bringing me that.”

One of Tuco’s henchmen presumes to speak for him, Tuco then goes ballistic, viciously attacks the guy. Walt and Jesse look on, eyes wide open. Tuco finishes up, laughs and tells a bewildered Walt he’ll see him next week.

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This time, I won’t even mention the non-Walter developments. For the purposes of the blog, they’re not relevant.

 Analysis/Comments

You have to give Walter White credit for his improvisation skills. If there’s an obstacle separating Walter-Jesse Meth Inc. from their profits, you can be damn sure they (usually Walter) will find a way around it. When they don’t have ten grand to pay a couple guys to steal the key chemical, Walt says fine, we’ll do it ourselves. I’d never heard of thermite before this episode and I sure the the heck didn’t know you could make something so powerful from an ingredient used to make the Etch-A-Sketch kid’s toy.

A dominant feature in an ego-laden individual’s life is complexity. Because the ego convinces the host they must protect what they have and get more of everything, no matter what, even at the expense of others, the person must use deception to cover up what they’re doing. Think of how many times Walter and Jesse use deception in this episode alone. First they sneak onto the chemical warehouse property, locked the security guard in a Port-a-Potty, blow the door off its hinges with thermite and make off with the target chemical. Then Jesse has to keep people from the open house from checking out the basement, which has become a meth lab. Finally, they have another secret meeting with Tuco to sell him the blue meth. Even when Walter has sex, it’s illegal (Skyler and Walter’s intercourse takes place in on public property inside their car).

It’s one thing to attempt to understand, appreciate and utilize complex subjects like chemistry and physics, that’s the nature of the beast, but quite another when you needlessly complicate your life with convoluted, manipulative and deceptive interpersonal relationships. Honesty means transparency. Your actions speak for themselves.

If you’re a recovering alcoholic or addict and you relapse, honesty, especially with yourself, is important. If you find yourself unable to keep from using, talk to your sponsor (if you have one, which you should) and with a loved one you trust will be non-judgmental. You obviously need to revise your recovery plan. Maybe you need to attend more AA/NA meetings, exercise more often (or for longer periods of time), use Campral or Antabuse (http://www.addictionsandrecovery.org/antabuse.htm), start seeing a therapist, and so on. In my book, the seventh Insight of Enlightenment is “Have a recovery plan but make it flexible”. It’s like Walter White in the meth business. You’ve got to keep an open mind, see which parts of your recovery plans are working and which ones aren’t. Get rid of or tweak the ones that aren’t working and keep the parts that are doing just fine.

 

Note about the author of this blog:

Lee A. Eide is a freelance writer from Red Wing, MN. This blog shows how to free one’s self from any obsession by living beyond the narrow confines of the ego. His book, “Overcome Any Personal Obstacle, Including Alcoholism, By Understanding Your Ego”, is available at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/leewriter and on Amazon.com.

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Also available on Amazon.com and www.xlibris.com:

“Dead Man’s Plan” – spiritual thriller that’s been described as “a unique and fascinating read” by Midwest Book Reviews and “a great, exciting story with well-developed character’s” by Mary E. Dana of SharpWriter magazine.

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Author’s website is http://www.leeeide-thewriter.com. Eide lives in Red Wing with his cat Shaggy II. His wife Amy died on November 24, 2006 after years of abusing alcohol. Eide nearly died a little over a month later from quitting drinking cold turkey. He entered a 21-day inpatient rehab program at Fountain Center in Albert Lea, MN right after the near-death-experience, then moved to the Cochran House in Hastings, MN, a halfway house. Two months later, he moved in with his father Lavern. He’s had periods of sobriety, including 18 months (from Oct. 2010 to March 2012) during which he wrote “Overcome Any Personal Obstacle, Including Alcoholism, By Understanding Your Ego”, since then.

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The Writer’s Role in Society

The Writer's Role in Society.

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