Sunday, June 12, 2016
Tragic stuff seems to happen all the time. 20+ dead at an Orlando gay nightclub. I just don't know what to say.
These tragedies seem to occur almost daily. Some of them hit closer to home then others.
We just find ourselves too divided. Some of us think others are just too wrong. So wrong, apparently, that those people must die.
Who could brutalize others knowing they feel and think, suffer and experience pain in the same exact ways that they do?
Let's not focus on what divides us. Let's focus on what we can do together.
Otherwise, we're all going to suffer and die without making the most of our lives.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
People can easily and understandably become upset or frustrated. Sometimes, life doesn’t unfold the way we plan. Sometimes, people do not react the way we think they will react. However, people can use the idea of being upset or angry as a weapon to control others.
This is not about the reason for being upset; it’s about being upset with the purpose to get others to back down or shut down or to control a situation or people. This is the same reasoning children have a tantrum. Their parents don’t want their children to be upset, and so immediately react to rectify the situation. The child has become the one with the power.
Who wants someone else to be upset? Not many are malicious, wishing ill on others. Mostly, people don’t want to see someone upset, which is where the source of power of this weapon lives. Someone that is upset tends to shake things up a bit. The mind wants to preserve the status quo. It wants to remain static in an ever changing world. It prefers to be lazy as opposed to adapt, evolve or even just to listen. When someone becomes upset, all of these habits are jeopardized.
The way in which we react in these moments is crucial. We, of course, have the option of backing down from what we’re saying or doing. Often, this is the wisest course because mostly it’s not worth a confrontation or engagement with someone. However, this option teaches others that if they simply get upset or appear angry they eventually get their way. This lesson can be difficult to break once it becomes routine.
This dynamic can be highly destructive in families and small communities. We can see this same dynamic within groups of animals within nature. The loudest, most bombastic creature doesn’t rule purely by physical prowess, but more by intimidation and fear. If the pack leader had to prove his prowess to everyone within the pack, he would probably weaken and become defeated. This is a tactic.
We can also be very mindful in moments where people use this weapon of being upset. This is not easy. We must first know our thoughts and our feelings. These can easily be inflamed in these situations. Then, our reaction to the person who is being upset becomes the focus of attention in the engagement. This is a deflection and is highly common as it is very instinctual.
Whenever we expose this weapon in others or ourselves, we must be unshakable, yet remain open and aware. This can require so much effort if we’re not confident in our presence and actions. To remain still while still open and aware is something we must continuously reinforce within ourselves. As we face more intense situations, gradually our confidence will improve. We’ll be able to practice in the heat of someone being upset, or someone projecting their pain and suffering onto us.
Once the mind acquires a target, all the senses focus on that target and all the defensive mechanisms begin preparing to fire. The mind is very good at dismantling something or someone, determining the weaknesses of the target. This skill can either work for us & others or against us & others. Again, these are deeply ingrained, nearly instinctual responses. By understanding the weaknesses of others, we can work through these weaknesses or we can exploit them.
In these most difficult moments, we must return to patience, compassion and understanding. These help stabilize the mind, diminishing the chance of becoming inflamed as defensive arrows begin flying in our direction. The arrows are designed to pierce the stability of our presence, to shake us up and expose our own defensive mechanisms. Often, these arrows keep being fired until the desired effect is reached. We can even back down or retreat, and this can make the situation worse. The mind can go into auto-pilot, firing all of the arrows until the quiver is empty.
When dealing with someone in the throes of being upset, we have to become the true spiritual warrior. Our quiver is filled with patience, compassion and understanding. It is so easy to set up the person that is attacking us as our own target. Certainly, it is easy to do, considering the amount of pain and suffering that is being spread. However, by setting up the target, we’re setting ourselves up for continuing the cycle of pain and suffering. We keep these alive whenever we retaliate, whenever we don’t see what’s actually happening.
We can apply patience, compassion and understanding for not just the person that is being upset, but for ourselves simultaneously. This is how we respond. We break the cycle, not continue it. We open up, not shut down. We don’t let someone gain control over our hearts and minds. We become the light of our presence and awareness. We can do this.
When the weapon of being upset is being used, we must retain our presence and awareness and apply patience, compassion and understanding. These arrows, these painful words don’t have to damage us. We can remain constant; we can weather this storm. This situation is impermanent; the arrows are mostly words masquerading as actions. These arrows are covered in sorrow, fired with pain and burning with suffering.
We can be the peace and calm that is desperately needed. And, only we can supply this. The quiver of peace and calm is infinite, whereas the quiver of anger and retaliation is always limited.
We can do this.
Saturday, April 9, 2016
This life affords us many opportunities. It is up to us to be aware enough within each moment to see the chaos for what it is or to see our way through the distractions that often surround us in order to achieve what we can. Each moment is truly an opportunity for greater awareness.
Too often, we may enter into situations with attachments and expectations in how we desire the shape and feel of the resulting outcomes to be. This leads some to anger, disappointment, even despondency when our big plans don’t work out the way we want. What benefit do any of these reactions have or gain us, or anyone, either in the moment or especially in the long term?
Aren’t we punishing not only ourselves but also others for making the best choices that we could at the time when we think in this limited fashion? Why would we do that to ourselves or anyone else? Would it not be better to be open to any results in order to best learn from our experiences?
Of course, it is natural when we are attached and the object of that attachment is missing, taken away, or never materializes to have a negative reaction or response. This is why training the mind to analyze those attachment dynamics is crucial when we enter into any endeavor, especially those endeavors that we have specific intent to do benefit for and with others.
If our intentions are clean and clear of attachments, it allows us to seize on every opportunity presented to us by the natural chaotic factors present in modern life and from the natural effects from all of the causes we create from our actions.
‘Okay, This path is done. Thank you for the lesson. Bless you. Now, up that chaos ladder to a more beneficial-for-others dynamic, thank you very much! Not after I deal with the anger and loss, but right now.’
If there is no attachment, there is a freedom to be an intentional person. Every misstep, obstacle, obstruction, and absolutely every breath becomes but steps and stones on this ladder we’ve been climbing . . . to where . . . it does not matter because we have intentions connected to every action and every word. When we add, accumulate, and hold onto our attachments, it weighs those intentions down as well as our potential.
More importantly, it obscures awareness. How does it do this? When faced with new information, experiences, or results that directly or indirectly contradict those intentions, we are immediately capable of absorbing this new data and adjust our actions as we breathe our very next breath.
Monday, January 4, 2016
Laziness in Buddhism is unique. It is loosely defined regarding a mind that finds no joy in virtue. This may seem an extremely confusing way to approach the concept of laziness. However, in my exploration of the Buddhist approach to laziness, I found some astounding corollaries to modern life.
Buddhism identifies three specific types of laziness: indolence, unwholesome actions, and self-deprecation & defeatism. (The Nectar of Manjushri’s Speech, Pelden)
Being indolent is to have a disposition avoiding exertion, causing little pain or to avoid pain by remaining inactive.
Indolence is a very curious form of laziness. In modern culture, we have depression. One of the symptoms of depression is staying in bed, hence remaining physically inactive. It could be seen here that the pain and suffering of staying in bed and the isolation that comes from depression is far less than the perceived pain and suffering of leaving that bed. It certainly is worthy of further exploration.
However, indolence here is not necessarily regarding physical exertion, which are limited. There are infinite ways we avoid exertion mentally and emotionally. We often don’t consider . . . anything. We hardly ever consider . . . nothing. That’s the laziness referred to here.
It’s actually possible to have so much joy from even the most mundane of human activities. In fact, it is through these daily activities that we should strive to experience joy every single day. Our lives don’t have to be some grand love affair or adventure on the big screen to have joy in every day.
Imagine waking up and finding joy in what you can do today.
Many Westerners immediately misconstrue Buddhist terms like ‘unwholesome actions.’ Gossamer covers the minds when some hear these terms, thinking they can never live up to some expectation of always being perfect people. This is simply not the intention.
However, intentions are crucial in all that we do, and that is what is meant by unwholesome actions with regard to laziness. What are we really after with our actions today? Tonight? When we rise in the morning? Knowing what the intent behind every action sounds exhausting, but it can be liberating and exhilarating.
Imagine the freedom and the joy in making every action you take matter to you.
Self-deprecation & defeatism
Here, the defeatist attitude is becoming immune to the pains and sufferings of self and others. If we examine this closely, this ultimately becomes a conversation about greater awareness and emotional openness.
In our modern society, some focus so much on their own pain that it eclipses the suffering of others, even their loved ones staring them in the face or striving to help alleviate it. Others, avoid feeling and experiencing their own suffering, obscuring it through acts of kindness, hostility, or ambivalence. Both methods block awareness and create barriers between all of us.
Imagine letting go of being perfect. Allowing yourself to not have to hold it all together and demanding the same of others. Imagine making a human connection with every person, first yourself. You deserve it. You need it.
Laziness is not something to look down on yourself about. It certainly isn’t something we should look down on others about. It is only part of our human condition. What is wonderful and beautiful about this human condition is that we can break out of this laziness and experience the joys of the virtue of being here and now. We don’t have to be perfect because we are not. But, we can wake up to joy with every breath we take.
Sunday, January 3, 2016
+Wonderful WorldThe lichen hanging in the trees wafts to and fro,Stirred by every breath of wind;Likewise, all I do will be achieved,Enlivened by the movements of a joyful heart.-Shantideva
As this year and every day begins, go lightly with a joyful heart.
Our intentions fundamentally shape everything we do, every word we utter, every thought we think, and every feeling we feel. Exploring what those intentions are can transform every moment. What once was lacking becomes abundant with possibility simply because we are present within it.
Open your eyes
Open your ears
Open your arms
Open your hands
Open your heart
Open your mind, and let the joys of intentional living transform this world.