Archive for May 2017

Meditation Update 2017-05

It is time for another meditation update.

For a while I kind of fell off the wagon.

I was counting my breaths, but I realized my mind was wandering in between counts. My attention would go back to my breath at the end of the exhale, and I would count the next number, but sometimes in the middle my mind would wander off. Then I would end the exhale and tick off the next number. My mind was kind of in a sine wave pattern. Sometimes I did get really distracted and forget where I was. Maybe I never paid close enough attention to the instructions.

So I tried meditating without counting, and I did not last too long. But I am getting better.

Sometimes I meditate in a chair. I like that since my leg does not fall asleep. My leg falling asleep while meditating has been an issue for a long time. I think it is the rotation that causes it. I also sit on some cushions, and I arrange a few so my hips are higher than my shins, sort of like stadium seating.

One issue is that I do a lot of my meditating late at night. Sometimes I have to cut it short because I start falling asleep. I think I would make more progress if I did it earlier, or maybe when I wake up. And I should probably start waking up earlier. I am also starting to transition to a low-carb diet, and I plan on cutting out soda as soon as I get through the cases I have left.

I do mostly insight meditation and mantra meditation. I tried metta, and it was okay. I tried Mahasi-style noting, and it was exhausting. I might try that again later. I also do some Taoist meditation where I control the breath. A lot of people try to control the breath when they meditate, so why not just go with it?

Glenn Morris mentions Taoist meditation in “Path Notes of an American Ninja Master”. He wrote he attended an event with a bunch of Chinese people who practiced qigong. He said many of them were in their 60s and 70s, but none of the men looked older than 50 and none of the women looked older than 40. Women who never look older than 40 is very appealing. I first read that book in my 20s, and the point about eternally-40 Chinese women did not really register. I re-read the book a year ago, and it stuck.

I also started attending weekly sittings with Mariposa Sangha here in Austin. They meet in Trinity United Methodist Church, like CFI. They/we meet every Thursday at 7. There is 30 minutes of sitting meditation, 15 minutes of walking meditation, then 15 minutes of sitting. The walking is optional, which I like. I stay sitting the whole time.

When I was living in Chicago, I would sometimes attend the Chicago Weekly Sitting Meditation Group which usually met every Monday at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on Addison; sometimes they meet at Montrose Beach. They did 30 minutes of sitting, and then 10 minutes of walking. Everybody sat in a circle on the floor (there are chairs at Trinity), and the walking was around the circle. It would have been kind of awkward to not engage in walking meditation. Every time I do walking meditation, I either want to say something in a low, slooooow voice, act like a Tai Chi mime behind an invisble wall, or I hear the theme from “Chariots of Fire” in my head.

I have never liked walking meditation, and never really saw the point. If I am not developing concentration doing sitting meditation, what will walking meditation do for me? Besides, I walk around all the time anyway. If that was the path to enlightenment, why would anyone need a sangha?

At Mariposa, there is a “dharma talk” after the meditation for about 15 minutes, then 15 minutes of discussion. Sometimes the speaker will mention the Pali suttas, which I like. One thing that always seemed strange about Zen is that they claimed to be Buddhists, yet mostly ignored the Buddha. The Austin Zen Center had a guy giving lectures on the Pali suttas for a while. But most Zen groups talk about the Chinese and Japanese roots of Zen and ignore the Indian.

One change at Mariposa that I think I helped bring about is they ring a bell at the beginning of the meditation period. When I first went, at some undefined point people would start meditating on their own. At the Chicago Weekly Sitting Meditation Group, the organizer would formally start the group, and give basic instructions at the beginning. The first time I went to Mariposa, I started talking to the guy next to me, and after a few minutes I noticed everybody else had stopped talking and had started meditating.

Someone told me they did it that way because in monasteries the monks would go in and out of the meditation hall when they wanted. Which is fine because they live there. Plus, at the end of the dharma talk at Mariposa, everybody bows to the group. If you end the meeting, why not start it?

Also: I just realized that while  they use the word “sutta” and not “sutra” at Mariposa, they say “dharma” and not “dhamma”.

The Butterfly” by Childe Hassam (1859-1935), assumed allowed under Fair Use.

2017-04 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for April, 2017.

The monthly dividend income came out to $324.66. The yearly income total for 2017 through the end of the month was $1814.94.

The income for April, 2016 was $270.38, and the yearly income for 2016 through the end of April was $1622.67.

I got my first payout from Leggett and Platt (LEG), which I think more than makes up for the income I lost since Duke bought Piedmont Natural Gas.

I found out that WGL Holdings (WGL), a “B” month stock, decided to be acquired. Rather, the board decided to pursue a merger with Canadian company AltaGas. I got this packet in the mail asking me to vote on it. I found out that if the merger does not go through, WGL will have to pay a breakup fee to AltaGas of $136 million. Perhaps the board should have asked shareholders to vote on whether to agree to a merger in the first place. WGL would have to pay a fee even if AltaGas breaks off the merger under most circumstances; there are some in which AltaGas would have to pay WGL amounts ranging from $68 million to $205 million.

Granted, if it goes through, I lose a dividend stock that gives me money. But I get some cash to buy another stock. Should I go with another gas utility? I have already had two bought out from under me (Piedmont and Questar). An article in Forbes points out that low interest rates and growing use of natural gas in the USA has fueled a lot of mergers in the past few years. There is more to the hype than just a lot of hot air; this sector is really cooking.

I might add a few gas utilities to my watch list: ATO, SJI, SRE, SWX. Another reason to add another gas utility is that NWN,  another gas utility I own, has had declining revenue for a while. These other utilities are doing better on that measure.

So I will probably have at least one fewer stock soon. That kind of stinks, but as I wrote I can use the cash to buy something else. Sometimes DGI detractors (or stock detractors in general) will say something like, “While X companies that fit this criteria twenty years ago, only Y still do. Some of those companies do not exist anymore.” You hear this from people in the startup world who like to bash corporations. I don’t think that a company being acquired (or even going private) is necessarily a bad thing, or that it invalidates the DGI or corporate models. WGL isn’t going bankrupt. Being acquired or going private is not a sign of failure for a large corporation, any more than being acquired would be a sign of failure for a startup. Is Instagram a failure because they were bought by Facebook? Pivoting, on the other hand, could mean you were just flat out wrong to begin with.

No dividend growth investor who knows what they are doing thinks dividends are guaranteed forever. But the probability that a firm that has paid dividends will continue to do so is pretty high. It is better than hoping to get a good price when you need it. Dividends tend to mostly go up, while price is more volatile. Even Bogle knows this.

(An announced dividend payment IS guaranteed, and legally binding.)

Also: do not interpret all of this to mean that corporations are always right; think of Monsanto suing farmers, tobacco companies spreading disinformation about cancer, oil companies spreading disinformation about climate change, etc.

Interesting fact: the word “disinformation” actually comes from Russian. Coincidence? I think not.

Here is a table with the year-to-date amounts, the monthly amounts, and the three- and twelve-month moving averages for each April from 2011 through 2017:

Month YTD Amount 3MMA 12MMA
2017-04 $1814.94 $324.66 $532.02 $522.40
2016-04 $1622.67 $270.38 $461.86 $471.14
2015-04 $1441.12 $261.30 $409.21 $395.68
2014-04 $1130.58 $196.43 $323.64 $303.18
2013-04 $898.59 $179.23 $262.82 $289.40
2012-04 $1010.82 $218.56 $274.05 $271.21
2011-04 $848.29 $203.10 $216.30 $179.46

Here are the stocks and the income amounts for April, 2017:

  • Automatic Data Processing: $34.89
  • Coca-Cola Co: $50.43
  • MDU Resources Group Inc.: $11.64
  • Kimberly-Clark: $58.24
  • Illinois Tool Works: $36.82
  • Leggett & Platt, Incorporated: $51.00
  • Chubb Corp: $44.13
  • RPM International Inc.: $17.73
  • Sysco Corp: $19.78

Portrait of Élisabeth Charlotte d’Orléans (1676 – 744) by an unknown artist, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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