Monthly Archives: May 2013

How’s It Feel To Want?

When I was a kid, one way my friends and I would be cruel to each other was to offer something like a piece of gum or candy asking, “Do you want one?” and when the person said that they did, we’d retort with, “How’s it feel to want?” If you happened to be the victim of this juvenile joke, it generally felt lousy. As cruel kids games go, this one is pretty Zen. If you substitute compassion for cruelty, then the question, “How’s it feel to want?” can lead you to enlightenment.

Getting to know how it feels to want can be a lifelong occupation. It does’t always feel lousy, depending on what it is that you want and how likely your are to get it.  People buy lottery tickets by the billions to feel the joy of wanting a financial finale to all their problems. Children excitedly watch the clock wanting Christmas morning to come. Wanting also leads to a lot of suffering. If you feel yourself suffering, you might ask yourself what it is that you want.

Unless you are at peace with the universe, it’s likely you want something all the time. If you notice yourself wanting and ask yourself, with great humor, compassion and genuine curiosity, how it feels to want, you will gain all kinds of insight into yourself. Do you want to feel the joy of eternal peace? How’s it feel?

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Finding Your Happiness

Becoming happy is not a simple matter. If you could find happiness by copying somebody else’s behavior, everybody would only have to act like the happy guy. It would be nice and simple. If you could find happiness by creating some new habits and dropping some old habits, that would take a little work, but it would be worth it. If there was somebody out there who could read your mind and flip a switch to make you happy, that would be best of all. Happiness is about the most important thing you could achieve in life, but it is not a realistic goal in itself. Your happiness is a byproduct of thinking and acting in a certain way that is completely unique to you.

Finding your happiness is like finding the Sun. You know that the Sun is there whether you can see it or not. All day you see its light. All night you have confidence the light will be back the next day. Knowing that your happiness is there, you can forget about it and pay attention to what you think and do. When you know happiness is around, you are free to notice just how you feel other than happy. You can give each feeling its time without resentment.

To find your happiness, its good to think about happiness and sadness and anger and fear for yourself and others. Your happiness is there, when you don’t worry about finding it, it will find you. 

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Ugly Shoes

The problem with accepting things as they are is that we don’t always like how things are. When things seem terrible why would we accept them? If you buy a pair of shoes, take them home and decide that you don’t like them, you don’t accept them as they are, you return them. This ability we have to return anything we don’t like can get in the way of accepting things as they are.

We like to think of ourselves as powerful. We like to be active in the world, bringing about justice and the changes that we want. The idea of accepting things as they are seems passive and weak when we don’t like how things are. If we are feeling miserable, accepting things as they are feels like giving up all power and resigning ourselves to our misery. Yet, our misery is caused by not accepting things as they are.

Accepting things as they are is the first step in changing things. If you bring home a pair of shoes that you don’t like. First you accept that you brought home a pair of ugly shoes, then you return them. Accepting things as they are has nothing to do with liking or not liking. Acceptance is just recognizing how things are. What you do with how things are is up to you.

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Obstructed View

When you go to a concert, ballgame, or theater and you get a seat behind a post that blocks your vision, you will get annoyed. If you have a decent seat with clear sight lines and somebody comes and sits in front of you, it will be even more annoying. Then you don’t just get mad at a post, you have an actual human being as the object of your ire. In the arena of life there is a giant human being sitting right in front of you interfering with your view of the action. That is you.

There is no need to be angry with yourself, that just makes you bigger and more in the way. You have to empty yourself so that you can see right through you. When you are floating along with life and things are all falling into place, you find yourself loving people,  engaged in your activities and enjoying the show. You become empty as you go with the flow. Whenever you run into a problem, your Self  grows and blocks your view.

Problems come in all shapes and forms. They can be anything from a global catastrophe to a simple thought. Problems don’t affect your theatergoing Self, they just enlarge your obstructing self. The purpose of the play is to enjoy the show. A big part of the show is learning to see through your obstructed view.

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Brush Your Mind

If you think it’s important to brush your teeth two or three times a day then you should also brush your mind. Like plaque builds up on your teeth, ideas build up in your mind. If you sit and meditate in the morning and in the evening, your mind will remain fresh. What bothers you today will not last into tomorrow. It’s just good mental hygiene.

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Word Weaver

Words wriggle like worms through grooves in the ground,

Thoughts thinking through troughs in our mind.

They delight and inspire or ignite fearful fires,

Which can burn us in ways most unkind.

Words teeming and streaming day and night in our heads

Tell us just how we think things things are being,

But when the words’ ruts don’t align with our guts

They prevent us, the word weavers, from seeing.

The words say it is so, when, in fact, it is not

And because it is us, we believe them.

When the words’ lies, cloud over our eyes

We passively weave and receive them.

Yet we, as the weavers, believers, conceivers

Have powers that words can’t describe.

We are the source, so can alter the course.

We can tack when the words want to jibe.

As we attend to our word weaving ways

And amend any harmful conception,

We feed fuel to our fire, choosing words which inspire

Our joy in our basic perfection.

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Greener Grass

It is hard to imagine another person’s suffering. Most people we encounter appear to have some contentment. They tell us about their problems and we know that they will get through it, that somehow they will manage, that their situation is not as bad as it seems to them. It’s easier to imagine somebody else’s happiness. When we see a smile or a laugh or calmness in another, we can imagine that they are living a happy life.  When we encounter spiritual teachers, or wise counsellors pointing the way to inner peace and good mental health, we may envy their attainment or understanding. We may feel we lack something that they have. Our own problems feel real and large, our happiness seems fleeting, our spiritual attainment and mental health feels pedestrian in comparison. Others’ grass seems greener because we don’t directly feel their suffering.

If somebody gives an eloquent talk on living with devastating depression, we may even envy them because they are surviving and we admire their courage. We admire their eloquence. That is just us not feeling their suffering. Our own suffering is so great that we may envy somebody bravely coping with their suffering. We can see in them that dignity and strength that we miss in ourselves. It is amazing where we can see greener grass.

The ability to see greener grass in another can lead the way to appreciating our own circumstance. Our longing for inner peace is a big part of realizing inner peace. We are all in the same pasture. It’s all the same grass. Our problems are not as bad as they seem. We are completely capable of living a contented, happy life.

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Going to Zen

Most Saturday evenings I go to a Zen meditation group. I love it. It is inconvenient for my family because I have plans for every Saturday evening. As I leave the house each Saturday, I say, “I’m going to Zen”

My daughter told me that I am not correct when I say that I’m going to Zen. She said that zen is an adjective as in that’s so zen. She says it’s like saying, I’m going to fat, or stinky, or tall, or purple. It makes no sense to go to an adjective. It was a zen conversation.

When I say that I’m going to Zen, I use it as a noun, as a specific place I go. If I wanted to describe what we do there, then it could also be a verb. I will meditate, prostrate, congregate and eat. That is what I do when I zen. Zen is also an adverb because I do all of that zenly.

So each Saturday that I am able, I zenly zen at the zen Zen center. The rest of the week I zen zenly or unzenly, depending on your point of view as to what is zen. There is really nothing to Zen, it just signifies what is happening.

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Loving Appreciation

If you read about Zen or Buddhism for ideas to help you feel better, that is a good idea. Buddhist writing is so full of compassion that you feel loved and appreciated with every word you read. If you need to feel more than loved and appreciated then keep reading. As you read on, you learn to love and appreciate people and things. When you love and appreciate people and things and you understand that you are loved and appreciated you can’t help but feel a little better.

If you still don’t feel better, then read on. Soon you will learn to love and appreciate yourself. When you love and appreciate yourself you’re bound to feel better.  If you feel good about yourself, but still don’t feel better, then read on. You will learn to love and appreciate your circumstance. If you recognize that you are loved and appreciated, and you love and appreciate others, and you love and appreciate yourself and your circumstance and you still don’t feel better, then stop reading. You must have been feeling  wonderful when you started.

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Cosmic Accounting

There are certain absolutes in life. You either get it or you don’t. You are pregnant or not. You are alive or dead. You are suffering or not suffering. These are all conditions that come and go. One minute you’re pregnant, the next, you are a mother. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t. You are alive right up until you are dead. You suffer, then you stop suffering. This is how you pass time.

You can think of time as a series of moments where things appear and disappear. You are the accountant who keeps tabs of what is and isn’t in each of these moments. Your suffering comes from your attachment to the bottom line. As you count what is and isn’t, you want some things to keep being, other things not to be at all, and you wish for new things to come into being.  You participate by maintaining, destroying and creating things as you keep your running tally. The bottom line is quite complicated and somewhat arbitrary, also changing with you and passing time.

As complicated as it is to keep track of the accounting as it relates to your experience, if you add your family into the mix, what is and isn’t becomes vague. You may not be pregnant, but your sister is. Your sister may be enjoying the moment, but your brother is suffering. Your mother may be alive, but your grandmother is dead. Your family is then alive and dead, suffering and content, pregnant and not.

Also, you can think of time as a single span in which you are born, live and die. In an eternal moment, you are alive and dead, suffering and enjoying, getting it and forgetting it. As an accountant, there is nothing to figure or become attached to anymore. Everything cancels itself out.

To create a bottom line that can tell you whether or not to suffer, you have to limit your focus to yourself in a particular moment. In that moment you can see what is, was and could be and decide if you like it or not. Then it changes.

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