Thursday, December 19, 2013
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Recently I adopted a rooster. He has become a bit of a little stepchild to me in some ways.
I rescue animals of all kinds and it just so happens that since I had lost several chickens over the winter last year he fit right in with my other chickens. But we haven't seen eye to eye on a couple of things.
Originally I couldn't imagine why this little guy would be a drop off in a busy parking lot of a fast food restaurant. I naturally assumed that he must have fallen off a chicken truck or just escaped from someone's vehicle.
He was very skinny, old, and tired looking. He was half starved to death and weighed a little over a pound or two. I took the time to clean him up, put medicine on his comb where it was all cut up from either a pen or a fight and gave him time to heal.
Well, the next morning he got me up at 5AM. And so it went for a month or so.
Myself convinced that all I wanted is peace so I got angry at him for doing what roosters do best. It is not his fault that he is just doing what his nature tells him to do. I discovered that the problem wasn't with him at all. It was with me. Can you imagine?!
Perhaps I misunderstood what peace meant for me. I took it as a quiet state of mind. And a quiet surroundings.
Wanting to avoid being caught in angry thoughts regarding the rooster I kept an open mind where he was concerned. He is conditioned by his own thoughts of what peace is and so am I. His peace is different than my peace.
How many people have been in a similar situation with someone that really grinds our Buddhist gears?
But if both delusion and ignorance disappear then so does Enlightenment.
When the mind that was in darkness disappears so does enlightenment. So as long as I grasp for peace of mind with the rooster I will never find it.
Because I seek it for selfish purposes. Instead of yelling at him to be quiet when I go outside and look at the little rooster with universal oneness there is no selfish peace of mind for him to destroy and therefore I no longer discriminate against him. There is no cause or condition and he has helped me bust through the limitations that I viewed to Buddhahood.
Instead of being a pest. He is a good teacher. I am learning a lot from him.
The rooster is not outside of me because he is in my heart. He may one day leave my yard but he will never leave my heart. This took me a while to digest.
Isn't that the way it is with anything that we don't understand. I quit being angry with him for waking me up and just started doing my work earlier in the morning.
It is the twilight hour so I am the only one awake in the whole house. I can hear him crowing and then for a brief moment I can hear myself think. I can only imagine now that someone else couldn't tolerate his morning voice so they let him go so their loss is my gain.
The little rooster named Harry is doing fine now and has a muffin top from eating so good. I'd say he weighs a nice healthy 4lbs now.
All of his feathers have grown back and his comb has healed.
He likes me and follows me all over the yard like a sweet little dog. I like him and value his friendship.
He does things that make me laugh. Like come over and pick at my shoelaces and untie them then run like he didn't do it.
If I am sitting in the yard meditating he will come over and peck me on my back somewhere gently then run so I look around both ways like "who's that?" and I somehow feel he might be secretly recording me for a funniest home video episode one of these days.
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Good Morning world.
I don't know if there is ever a good time to discuss religion. There are so many diverse religions.
While speaking to a Christian one day they commented to me that "Because I am a Buddhist that worships gold idols didn't I realize that I am going to go to hell for not believing in God instead?"
So I commented back "Did you know that Buddhists believe in God? We not only believe in him we love him with all of our hearts and we do not worship Gold idols, we honor the teachings of a man that didn't consider himself a God, a son of God or anything else other than a fellow student for most of his life then when he learned all that he could he began teaching what he knew to others. That is all they need to know.
There were tiny parts of me that wanted to be angry and say "Just where did you get your information so we can go talk to all of the ill informed and set the record straight?" But being a Buddhist means not telling anyone anything while mad or setting any record straight because that in itself is an act of revenge.
Sometimes in our practice we encounter people that really push our buttons and trigger something inside of us that is still wild and untamed. It causes us to question ourselves with thoughts like "Do I make a good Buddhist?" or "Should I remain a Buddhist?" because their words have stripped us bare to the core and now we feel vulnerable. As a Buddhist we know this is the most open and alive that we will ever feel. And scary.
Our reflection of our religion and of our self can only reflect what we have learned from our teacher or mentor. Our glass can only be filled from what we learn by our Dharma teacher. Until this point we have a warped image of what is inside and outside of us. It isn't until our teacher removes the world viewed rose colored glasses for us that we see things differently. Like the scale in the pic above it can only give us one reflection or view. It can't measure our self worth. Our view of the world is what our teacher has shown us that it is. What we now perceive it to be. Later we see it for what we can make it to be. With encouragement from our teacher. By how we can shape it and make it a better place for our self and for others. By sharing what we have learned from our Dharma bringer with others in a kind and gentle manner and not forcing our will or our ideals on them. They each have to find their own steps on the path ahead of them. We can only show them the direction. We cannot walk the path for them. That would defeat the purpose of our helping.
If it is only one strong willed person we save then we are still just as blessed as someone that saves an entire village of souls. Spirit doesn't see the difference between one and hundreds. The karma kudos might still be the same if all of the others are just blind followers not really knowing what or why they are following.
When I am with Christian friends they think I am Christian because when I am with them we speak of God and of Jesus. I don't try to throw Buddha into every conversation with them. When I am with my Hindu friends I am the same way about Shiva and Ganesha. There is no need to try to show one better than other.
In my life Buddha knows he is loved. And he knows Jesus is loved. It isn't a game of "my deity is better than your deity" and by doing this I consider myself blessed because I have made friends from all religions. I have gone with just as many Hindu friends to worship in satsang as I have with Christian friends and Buddhist friends. It is good to always keep an open mind and an open heart with religion. It makes a good learning experience. Just don't get freaky or preachy ;)
A few weeks ago in my circle of social contacts someone lashed out with an insult about being a Buddhist and turned it into a running joke that most of his other friends laughed at. I think most true Buddhists at heart would have also un-friended him. I not only un-friended him I blocked him as well so I didn't have to encounter him again afterward because he triggered a defense mechanism inside of me. It does no good to be friends with someone always talking trash talk or negatively. I felt like I had to defend myself and Buddhism but I caught myself before I acted by saying something back to him defensively in retaliation. Whew, that was a close one! I almost said something that would have hurt my self later.
For the first time in my practice I felt deeply hurt and ashamed that someone could be so cruel with their words. I blame it solely on him being Godless. I don't know did I ask for it by putting my self out there to be insulted? When we run the risk of putting our self out there and our self can be hurt by the words and actions of another. Our self takes it as a personal threat to our well being. We hold it inside or lash out.
Buddha teaches us to be self-less.
When God is in our life it makes us better people. Whether we worship Buddha, Krishna, Allah or Jesus Christ. I grew up and my Aunt used to take me to the Catholic church. I learned from a young age to have respect for the teachers, pastors, mentors and followers of all religions and to keep my self out of it. Don't make anything personal. Don't form an attachment to it. Don't form a judgement without knowing all of the facts first. A Hippie would say "Just sit back and chill man. Don't take everything so personal."
As an adult I learned about different religions and got a PhD and a Masters in Religion so I am not ignorant in the ways of all other religions besides my own. I chose to become a Buddhist because a wonderful teacher came into my life when I needed it most. She was very firm and very straight to the point. There was no room for error in judgement. She also lived her life privately and solitary worshiped later in her life and never told anyone she was a Buddhist because she said it causes too much hurt to just "throw your religion preference out there" into every conversation. She was right because it does cause hurtful feelings in other friends that aren't of the same faith. They get suspicious that you are trying to "convert them" or "make them see your point of view" But Buddha was right on a similar note by saying "be with friends of your own faith so you don't have to hide who you are"
It seems like now more than ever people's faith is being not only tested but also insulted. what a strange world we are living in. Do people like living in this way where we are all might have to start being afraid for our lives because of what we believe in or because of who we worship? Does it even matter anymore that our rights are not only being taken away a little at a time or eventually stripped completely away from us?
Do you make a good Christian? Catholic? Mormon? Muslim? Buddhist? How do you know if you are faithful enough to your sovereign Lord? Praying every day at home alone but not doing anything else isn't really being all that faithful. Or do you go out drinking all night Friday then go to Church Sunday morning bright eyed and bushy tailed? Then you aren't really accomplishing anything with your religious life now are you? Everyone awakens at their own time. There is no rush. Get there when you are able to. Right?
People in Europe today (2013) are burning witches again. In some places they are burning Christians too.
It is only a matter of time before all other religions are tested in this way. What is happening to the world when our leaders allow this to happen and do nothing to protect us from this madness? Are they Godless as well? Are they turning a blind eye to the violence that is now being created because of their doing nothing?
There will always be people that test our faith.
There will always be people to poke fun at Buddha, Allah, Krishna, Jesus and what they stood for. For how they lived their lives. For who they "hung around with." For what they did and what they said.
There will always be people that feel we are not this enough or that enough, or our robe isn't black enough, or gold enough, we are not bald enough or faithful enough. When does it all end?
I pray that I am enough.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Good morning world.
For the first time in my life I am finding myself without a car and this makes me totally dependent upon the kindness of others to take me places. I really don't like this helpless feeling at all. It's not like me.
Sometimes needing to go to the store and depending upon the kindness of other people and their time schedule can be exhausting. Often times appointments are made, friends forget that they have already reserved the time space for me and double book themselves; only to find the doctor ill humored and charging my insurance for the missed/canceled appointment anyway. I gladly pay for their gas and food when they take me some where but I live 20 miles from everything so it is a very big inconvenience for anyone to come this far out. I am accustomed to just jumping into the car and going when I like but I don't have that option anymore. It can be quite frustrating when trying to make appointments for mom and I. She has to go to her appointments on time.
I live 45 minutes from the nearest Buddhist gatherings and 20 miles from the nearest real town. I haven't had a decent internet connection in the whole winter and have been online maybe 20 minutes tops in all of that time because of server outages and rainy day or cloudy/ bad connections. So I can't connect with others that are Buddhists in the way that I wanted to like through Skype teachings Etc....
I am making scrap books of our time here and other hobbies in order to keep myself busy when not tending to the greenhouses and pet projects outside.
Heck...The only two stores in my town are a very high priced gas station and a dollar general store. Neither place sell organic foods so when there I am forced to buy only $4 per can soups, breads, and the basic stuff.
I feel isolated and trapped being so far away from town. I don't mean to turn this into a poor me story. Forgive me if I have.
A friend jokingly said all of my tension and frustration stems from needing to get laid. Ha! If that were the case that would solve everything right? *(laugh)* but actually I have been celibate for over two years now and I can assure you that is not the problem. Buddhist guilt is much more severe than Jewish guilt or Catholic guilt. They are lucky to only have one type of hell while we have 80,000 different types of Hell.
I became a Buddhist because the town I grew up in was known for three things. Pregnancy, Senior citizens, and Friday night parties. I left all of that business behind in 1995. I wanted more than that. I wanted to help people. I wanted my life on this earth to have meaning. In all of my time here in Tennessee I have found 2 people in which were Buddhist. Both were shining examples of how I would like to live my life.
My daughter was doing very well in her studies then she made contact with a friend down the road that convinced her into going to Sunday School with the other local children.
I cannot begin to tell you the amount of cumbersome restraint we have had to have on this issue but it boiled down to her coming home, turning her back on Buddhism because the church said it is a sin and that we will burn in hell. I have been patient and more than sympathetic where they are concerned but one girl started taking her offering money saying that if she wanted to sit by her and be her friend then she had to pay her.
That got me to visit the church and tell the girl and my daughter directly NO NO NOT EVER AGAIN!
So in retaliation the girl brings all of her little cousins trying to turn them against my daughter. This almost works but my daughter becomes good friends with the girl and this makes the girl lash out even more.
So she starts picking on my daughter in public like laughing at her when she tries to say words and says them differently. So I tell her at some point this has got to stop. So she tells the teacher and it still keeps going.
The girl has become a bully. So thankfully my daughter has found other things and other friends to be with instead of going to Sunday School just to be picked on and be the laughing stock of both the bus and the class. It was a very uncomfortable situation that reminded me of being bullied in school when I was young.
We become Buddhists because we don't want to be the same people that we once were. We don't want the ignorance of our youth to follow us into our elderly years.
We want to teach others the right way to live their lives and find happiness even though it can be fleeting.
Right now my daughter is trying to find her way back into society after years of being bullied at that place.
I am here for her.
Love and gratitude.
Om ya drol ma.
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Another Great and very inspiring article published by http://www.spiritual-happiness.com
Many people are finding themselves filled with anxiety as their financial portfolios crumble. But the good news is that there is something much greater than these financial challenges -- there is an awareness that exists beyond the ups and downs of this world. Tapping into that awareness allows you to navigate the decisions of your life while remaining happy and calm in spirit.
Here are some tips to help you get centered in your higher awareness:
Many people are finding themselves filled with anxiety as their financial portfolios crumble. But the good news is that there is something much greater than these financial challenges -- there is an awareness that exists beyond the ups and downs of this world. Tapping into that awareness allows you to navigate the decisions of your life while remaining happy and calm in spirit.
Here are some tips to help you get centered in your higher awareness:
- Take slow deep breaths to calm your mind and nervous system. Breath in to the count of 3, hold for the count of 3, breathe out to the count of 3, and pause to the count of 3, and feel free to adjust this practice to whatever pace is most comfortable for you, with the focus on allowing your breath to move more deeply and slowly.
- During the day, as you walk, think a walking affirmation timed with your steps. You can start with, “I am happy, I am healthy, I am wealthy, I am blessed,” and compose your own personalized statements to bathe your mind in positive thoughts and words. You can also align positive words with your slow breathing exercise.
- Remember death - not in a fearful way, but with a recognition of that which is inevitable. Remembering death helps you to appreciate life. Whatever you may have lost in the stock market is just practice for the day that you will leave this whole world behind to enter a greater realm of experience. Be grateful for what you have, and that gratitude will help to outshine the darkness of doubt and fear.
- Don't listen to Suze Orman telling you (on CNN this past week) that you're going to have to live in your car and wait in bread lines. That's the same fear-mongering approach that helped create this crisis -- see this article for more on this topic.
- Have faith. If you're Christian, remember and write down Bible verses that give you greater faith that the hand of God is upon you and that He will take care of you as He does the lilies in the field. Each religion gives solace for difficult times - find whatever of these helps to soothe your mind and heart. Take refuge in the wisdom of ancient or modern sages. If you're “spiritual but not religious,” you can still have faith in the rightness of the universe and know that whatever you are going through is your destiny, your karma. We all have crosses to bear in our lives, and with them comes our power to choose to experience them with faith and happiness.
- Play gentle music that soothes your spirit and uplifts your heart and soul. Playing gentle music before you go to sleep will help to quiet the buzzing vibrations that keep you thinking and worrying. One example of good music to play before going to sleep is the "Eternal Om" recording that comes on the music CD in the back of each Spirituality For Dummies book, which you can also play online (for free) at http://www.spiritual-happiness.com/sfdcd.html.
- As you prepare to sleep at night, bring your focus into the present moment. In the present moment, everything is fine. You still have a bed to sleep in; you still have so much more than so many who live on this very same planet. Focus your attention on the sensation of lying in bed. Use whatever blankets and pillows help you to feel comfortable. Intentionally let go of the events of today and the concerns about tomorrow. Be like a child again. Your only job is to let go of yourself. Sleep in heavenly peace. . .
- Before you go to sleep, ask your subconscious mind to give you whatever dreams will help to heal your concerns and bring you peace of mind, whether you remember the dreams consciously or not. A lot of personal empowerment and healing can come from having the right dreams, and you can easily communicate with your own subconscious mind like a prayer, asking it to help you to survive and thrive through this and any other crisis.
- Instead of watching the scary news before going to sleep, take care of yourself with a cup of warm chamomile tea and some peaceful silence, as you read even a paragraph or two from a favorite uplifting positive book to guide you into a peaceful, sound sleep.
- Don't let fear or greed make you vulnerable to phishing schemes that steal your identity, free trial offers that end up costing you hundreds of dollars in hidden fees., or Nigerian princes who want to send you millions of dollars.
- Okay, you've been budgeting and denying yourself all kinds of unnecessary luxuries, but you just have an uncontrollable itch to shop. Here's one alternative. Take ten dollars plus change and go to your local 99 cent store. Get back into your childhood mentality of being able to go to the store and shop for simple but fun things, and take a good time to walk through the store feeling abundant with your ten dollar budget, with which you can purchase ten items.
- Use this financial downturn as an opportunity to clarify your priorities and simplify your life. Contemplate what is most important to you and fund that. Identify what is least important, and let it go. Everything in the middle can be decided on an individual basis. Do you really need to have that cell phone? If family vacations are a priority, are there less expensive ways to go? What are you paying for that you could do without? Do your kids really need those ballet lessons they don't really enjoy? Find simple and inexpensive ways to entertain yourself and your family. Playing a board game together can be every bit as fun as going to a movie, and a whole lot less expensive. With this kind of disernment, even when the stock market funds go back up, you'll have taken the very important step of considering what is most important in your life.
Copyright http://www.spiritual-happiness.com, Respectfully.
I have found a great and wonderfully inspiring article published by http://www.spiritual-happiness.com about Surviving and thriving in these tough economic times.
Our life is frittered away by detail . . . Simplify, simplify.
For generation after generation and in culture after culture, the same truth has been taught by spiritual sages — that outer wealth is not enough to satisfy the soul. With the materialism of our world getting so out of balance in recent decades, it is not surprising that a kind, loving, and conscious universe would step in to bring that materialistic obsession into balance – and voila, your budget gets slashed. Gee, thanks, universe.
Nobody likes having to go through tough economic times, but as dear Mary Poppins said, a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. In the case of economic setbacks, this sugar consists of the beneficial potentials and important lessons that can come from loosening our attachments to temporal treasures that won’t last. To paraphrase Jesus with a touch of modernization:
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust and good stocks gone bad consume and where thieves and incompetent CEOs and hedge fund managers break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust nor layoffs nor bear markets consume and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Whether through natural disasters or man-made aggressions, wars, thievery, or incompetence, people in all times and cultures have been given opportunities to remember that their worldly treasures are temporary and subject to decay and loss. If such losses help open our awareness to more sublime treasures in life, then those tragedies become great personal triumphs. Many people have risen from the ashes of challenging experiences into new realms of success and happiness after approaching their challenges with appreciation, enthusiasm, and a positive spirit.
Whether we shift our attachments, greed, and desires voluntarily or involuntarily, certain principles can help us to create a more peaceful and happy life. These principles are often followed by monastics – the kings and queens of simplicity who, for thousands of years, have sought a deeper connection to the universe by shaving their materialistic lives down to the minimum.
Monastics treasure their aloneness and sparse surroundings just as non-monastics treasure their social lives and belongings. They have chosen to step out of the usual fray of frenetic worldly life and into a space of deep inner focus. The word monastic comes from the Greek “monos,” which means alone.
In almost every time and culture, you’ll find spiritual seekers whose quests have led them to retreat into simpler lives, whittling their belongings and needs down to the bare essentials. Some monastics, such as Saint Francis and Teresa Lisieux, were penniless and barely known during their time, but have since achieved spiritual fame as people around the world remember them and visit their shrines for inspiration.
I have devoted my energies to the study of the scriptures, observing monastic discipline, and singing the daily services in church; study, teaching, and writing have always been my delight.
— Venerable Bede
Aside from moving to a cave or monastery, how can people living in a commercialized society find their way back to simpler roots? How can those who always think they need more realize that they can be happier with less?
One way to shift a materialistic focus back into balance is through losing some of the outer wealth that we may have thought was so important. Economic losses can be beneficial to our personal evolution if we are able to respond in a positive way. We may not always be able to choose what happens, but we can choose how we respond.
When approached with positive thoughts and actions, the same economic downturns that create so much unhappiness can also end up being just the medicine to spur us into new fields of spiritual awareness, happiness, and freedom.
Some people do understand the value of simplifying their lives and may choose to go outside their comfort zone by camping, climbing mountains, or visiting third-world countries. Even going to a spa can be an experience of simplifying their lives for some folks, depending on the person and the spa.
At the Golden Door Spa where I’ve offered many lectures on topics such as “The Inner Makeover,” guests spend many thousands of dollars per week to come and live simple lives while working very hard. Their day begins with a silent hike up the hill at 5:30 am followed by a full schedule of exercises, courses, massages, facials, meditations, yoga, and no alcohol aside from one optional glass of wine on their final evening. This is not a spa where you see sunbathers sitting around the pool playing scrabble and drinking martinis. Aside from the lack of prayers and devotionals, this spa’s schedule is similar to the monastic life I used to live in an Indian-based ashram.
The guests come to this challenging spa because they know it’s good for them. They leave their daily lives aside to have a weeklong taste of a sparse but comfortable life, with simple rooms and healthy meals. The guests spend most of their time in robes or simple workout clothes, and usually don’t wear any makeup. They don’t have to let anyone else know “who they are” in their worldly life, and can simply be themselves.
Even a week of this life of inner repose, yoga, meditation, exercises, and courses (with pampering) allows guests to replenish and nourish their personal, physical, mental, and emotional strength and to keep their lives in proper perspective. The atmosphere is one of inward focus and personal growth, with many elements in common with a monastic life.
Once I was having dinner with some of the Golden Door guests when our dessert was served – it was a small raspberry turnover. The elderly woman seated across from me wasn’t served a turnover because she had requested meals with no wheat. Instead she received a small dish of fruit. The woman became somewhat upset and anxiously told the wait staff that this wasn’t really the kind of wheat she meant. Of course, this woman knew that she could ask for ten turnovers and probably get them, but that would defeat the purpose of the week, both in discipline and in diet.
I’ll never forget watching this woman who was probably a multi-millionaire joyfully receiving her little turnover and then cutting off just a small corner to eat before wrapping the rest up to save for the next day. “I get hungry in the mornings,” she explained, sounding like a little waif who had to beg for morsels of food. I could see a glimmer of satisfaction as she tucked the remaining part of the turnover into her pocket.
Whether voluntary or involuntary, economic downturns are great times to rein in the greed machines of endless accumulation and take back our peaceful, contented lives. You don’t have to have more stuff to be happy. You don’t have to go to movies or play video games to be entertained. You don’t have to buy more make-up or expensive clothes to be beautiful. You don’t have to have ten or even one hundred times what you need (I’m thinking shoes, ladies!) You don’t have to purchase obligatory expensive gifts to show how much you care. Contrary to what advertising agencies want you to think, surrounding yourself with more stuff is not the answer.
Some folks have a difficult time sitting quietly for even half an hour, but monastics actually choose to live this kind of simple, peaceful, and inwardly focused life all the time. Still, integrating monastic principles into your life doesn’t require a radical shift. Jesus instructed his followers to “Be in the world but not of it.” You can add touches of monastic principles – times of quiet repose, contemplation, prayer, and contentment – and give yourself the inner resources to make the most of what you have, whether your finances are in an upswing or a downturn. You can enjoy all the abundance and challenges of your life, while keeping your foundation rooted in your eternal soul nature.
I spent ten years living a monastic life in an Indian-based ashram, and can assure you that most of us were definitely and demonstrably works in progress when it came to expressing the qualities of acceptance, harmony, respect, and brotherly love that are pillars of monastic life.
My spiritual teachers were vibrant, exciting, and fairly well known guides – they’re the spiritual gurus described in the “Pray” section of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray Love, and Elizabeth’s narrative shows how liberal the ashram’s open door policy was for many years.
The excitement and energy of this path attracted hundreds of thousands of unlikely monastics – lawyers, celebrities, customer service representatives, doctors, actors, housekeepers, mothers, fathers, daughters and sons of every possible occupation and walk of life – who would come to spend a day, week, month, or even years waking up super-early every morning for a full and challenging day of meditation, chanting, service, scriptural study, and focus on the divine inner Self. The goal of coming for an ashram retreat was to develop a love of these disciplines and principles that would continue to nourish people when they returned to their worldly lives.
When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light, for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food, and the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies with yourself.
— Tecumseh, Shawnee Chief
Using monastic principles to bring ourselves into harmony with the shifting circumstances of life can allow us to experience economic downturns without too much suffering. Principles such as simplicity, service, and contentment can turn difficulties into avenues of gratefulness, growth, and remembrance of what is more important in our lives.
Here are some monastic principles that can help you to not only survive but thrive during tough economic times, regardless of your religious or spiritual path or lack thereof:
The Principle of Contentment
This monastic principle says: If you have less, enjoy and appreciate whatever you have. If you have more, enjoy and appreciate whatever you have (and be generous with others). In other words, even while working to achieve your goals and dreams, be content with whatever you have right now.
An adjunct to this principle of contentment is the principle of simplicity – finding contentment in the peacefulness of simple enjoyments, such as a simple walk through nature, deep conversations with friends and family, and taking time to focus on improving ourselves from the inside out through meditation, prayer, self-examination, contemplation and other methods.
I’ve been from one side of the financial spectrum to the other – from a simple ashram lifestyle where purchasing a new toothbrush would be an occasion of great joy to a successful, six-figure Hollywood career. Then, after working too many hours to keep that successful career going, I became physically ill and spiritually world-weary, and moved to Cardiff by the Sea for a time of healing and creative service, once again living a simple life without much money.
Thanks to the principles I learned in the ashram, I was still able to experience a certain contentment during this decade-plus of low-income living. I decided to choose happiness and align my thoughts and feelings to be in harmony with what the universe was giving me. I chose to be content with whatever I had and whatever I didn’t have, and focused on giving good spiritual artistic works to the world.
One of the charitable projects I offered during these years was to script and edit a documentary about an amazing woman who went by the name Peace Pilgrim and walked back and forth across the country for nearly three decades as a penniless wanderer in the name of peace. She wouldn’t accept money or car rides, and would eat only when someone offered a meal, and sleep when someone offered a bed, or at a truck stop or a field by the side of the road.
During her walks, Peace Pilgrim touched people personally and through the media. She spoke about the blessings she experienced from living at need level, without having to spend so much time and energy taking care of a lot of possessions. Peace understood that her need level as a monastic-style pilgrim was not nearly enough for most people, and she urged people to find their own need level.
In the newsreel footage I used in this documentary, Peace showed off her worn and tape-covered shoes like a trophy – she claimed to only need a new pair every 1500 miles – and the look on her face as she turned her battered shoes toward the news camera was filled with light and exuberance. As Peace Pilgrim would often explain with her lilting voice, what she wanted and what she needed were exactly the same.
Without going to such extremes, you can still choose to be content with whatever does or doesn’t come into your life. Then, even in times of economic downturn, you’ll be able to make whatever adjustments are needed with a smile.
The Principle of Priorities
Contemplating your deeper goals is always a good use of time and energy. You may have all the “law of attraction” and “success” skills you need, but if you don’t know which direction you should be going, you’ll likely end up somewhere else. As Yogi Berra wisely said, “You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there.”
Arranging your priorities is very helpful in dealing with tough economic times. If you haven’t done enough soul-searching to find what is most important to you, then the task of budgeting when resources are less can be especially painful and confusing. However, when you’ve set your priorities, which also include your personal preferences, then you can approach the task of budgeting with greater harmony and ease. One way to arrange your priorities is to make a list of all the expenses in your life and give each one a number from one to three (or one to five if you want to allow for greater nuances). The divisions go like this:
- Assign a number one to the things
that are most important to you –perhaps taking care of family and pets,
living alone without a roommate, having personal transportation, or
having cable TV and computer access. Items in this category are things
you definitely do not want to eliminate from your life if at all
- Assign a number two to things you really could
do without right now. I had to create this kind of list when I left my
high-income job. The first thing to go was the cell phone. I certainly
didn’t need to be accessible by phone at all times in my simple new
lifestyle. For me, clothes were also on this part of the list, since my
somewhat reclusive lifestyle didn’t require me to be especially
Some people spend massive amounts of money to buy cars or clothes just to impress other people. Even if your job requires a good wardrobe, there may be some things that are not necessary to make a professional impression. Again, this is your list, not mine. If clothes are on your number one list, then you can find other areas of expenditure that are not as important for you to have.
- Everything else goes into category three: things you keep if you can. If finances go down to the point that you have to let some of these optional expenditures go, well then you’ll just have to do that.
Once you’ve arranged your priorities in this way, even if you miss certain enjoyments, the great thing is that you’ve hopefully managed to fund all the items on list number one and will still have those things that are most important to you.
The Principle of Sharing
In monasteries, members share in the work and in the benefits. Many monks even call one another brothers or sisters, and there is a sense of a larger family that for some extends to include all of humanity, as well as animals and other forms of life. It’s a big family. But it doesn’t have to be a dysfunctional family. Once we recognize the value of every human being, it is easier for us to share what we have. If you have more than you need and your brother or sister is in need, then monastic principles would guide you to share what you have with them whenever and however possible.
When I lived and worked in Hollywood, one of my greatest joys was to help others with some of my extra income. I loved to bring poor folks into a grocery store and tell them to fill the basket with whatever they wanted to bring home to their families. When a receptionist at work had to spend a month in another city to take care of her ailing son, I was able to phone the motel and ask them to put her stay on my tab. Not only did these acts give me great happiness and nourishment of spirit when I offered them, but they also brought comfort and contentment when I ended up going through my own times of need a few years later. My heart would lighten while remembering that when I had enough, I had given generously to others. I sensed that when the time came for me to leave this world, my acts of sharing and helping would be the great jewels that would give peace and perhaps even go with me, in some subtle karmic sense, into whatever lies beyond this life in this world.
Psychological studies have shown that sharing is beneficial to the giver, the receiver, and anyone who witnesses the generosity. During times of societal economic crisis, this attitude of sharing and helping others is a key to keeping a temporary downturn from becoming a long-term disaster. As Pope Benedict XVI said during his 2008 Christmas message in the midst of a worldwide economic crisis: "If people look only to their own interests, our world will certainly fall apart."
Without this kind of sharing during an economic crisis, qualities of greed, fear, hoarding, and divisiveness could take hold. Then we’d see families on the street with nowhere to go while homes across the nation sit empty, or bought up for pennies on the dollar by fat cats who just want to guzzle more and more into their bottomless pits of greed, eventually creating almost a third-world situation for our country and the world.
Each man takes care that his neighbor shall not cheat him. But a day comes when he begins to care that he does not cheat his neighbor. Then all goes well — he has changed his market-cart into a chariot of the sun.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Principle of Present Moment Focus
One purpose of monastic life is to turn one’s attention inward instead of focusing on the outer world. This present moment focus can translate as the practice of mindfulness in whatever you are doing, whether cooking, gardening, or arranging various affairs.
When you’re focused in the present moment, your mind becomes calm, like a lake without ripples. When the surface of a lake is calm, you can more easily see into its depths – so it is with the mind.
Your mind is a great tool; in fact some sages describe the mind as a portion of the infinite universal consciousness that has created everything. The mind can be either your friend or your enemy, and is often a bit of both. Focusing on the present moment allows your mind to be friendly, clear, and patient. After all, when you’re in the present moment, what could you be anxious for but another present moment?
In terms of economic challenges, when you’re focused in the present moment, you’re enjoying what you have today rather than spending today worrying about what may or may not happen tomorrow. You’re able to approach the present moment with focus and inner strength and take care of whatever preparations are appropriate to make for the future, but your attention is on the eternal now as it manifests in each moment.
One way to practice present moment focus is to look at yourself at any time and ask, “Am I okay right now?” Unless you’re in extreme physical or emotional pain, the answer is hopefully, “Yes.”
Through this practice, you come to see that in spite of some challenges, setbacks, and fears about the future, you are fine in each present moment. Then you can change your practice to declaring rather than asking, by stating, “I am fine right now.” This affirmation helps to not only define but also welcome your present state as being fine all the time.
The Principle of Forbearance
The good news about learning to suffer cheerfully is that this cheerfulness helps to alleviate the devastating experience of suffering and allows you to make better decisions and take more productive actions to alleviate the causes of suffering.
Once I was participating in a vespers service at a Benedictine monastery, when one of the older monks tripped and fell flat on his face, with blood starting to ooze out onto the floor. Without even the slightest ripple in their peaceful demeanor or cheerful faces, several of the monks brought in a wheelchair and gently wheeled the monk out for medical attention, while another monk wiped the blood off of the floor. This was a great demonstration of the blessings that can come from monastic life – an ability to stay peaceful even while attending to unexpected disasters.
Even non-monastics can find the inner resources to respond to challenges with a peaceful demeanor. If you’ve watched television news reports from scenes of extreme disasters where families have lost their homes and everything in them due to floods, fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, and all those other, ahem. . . “gifts from the universe,” then you’ve probably seen interviews with the victims of these tragedies.
Every now and then we see people who do not act like victims, even though they’ve lost so much. Instead they choose to suffer their losses cheerfully and to find greater appreciation for their loved ones who still remain. Some also use their moment in front of the microphone to express faith in the divine, or to share how this traumatic experience has shaken them into remembering what is most important in their lives.
Even though these folks are still in painful situations where they’ve lost many valuable things, they are not suffering as deeply as they would be if they were feeling resistant, angry, and victimized without using personal and spiritual tools to reframe a dark experience in an authentic and positive light.
I wish I could show you,
when you are lonely or in darkness,
the astonishing Light of your own Being.
Having forbearance doesn’t meant that you don’t experience sadness or upset over losses, especially when you’ve lost not just a chunk of your savings, but the basic necessities of your life. The point of applying these monastic principles is not to numb yourself or pretend to be unaffected by tragedy, but to add a note of cheerful peacefulness and conscious care to whatever you’re going through. Even if you’re feeling unhappy or angry about suffering certain losses, you can still remember the bigger spiritual picture within which everything is ultimately fine. You can remember that whatever you’ve lost is less important that what you still have – life, breath, conscious awareness, the ability to perceive, the heart to love, and the power to give.
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Throughout this past few years I have questioned more than my own sanity when it comes to politics.
I am from one of the founding Patriarchs of the United States. President Andrew Jackson and his nephew General Stonewall Jackson.
Everything our forefathers worked so hard to establish to protect the people is now being questioned. New laws are being passed. A brand new coin from the Obama Administration that no longer has In God We Trust on it. If we take away God what the heck do we have left? Allah? Krishna? John Goodman? I am a Buddhist but I don't think we will ever see a coin with him on it. Not unless a Buddhist becomes president? If a Muslim can become president then maybe one day a Buddhist can too?
I once talked to a very wise man and asked him "Why are so many people leading to crime and worse things against humanity" and he said "It is because they are a Godless Lot."
Is it true? Are we really turning into a Godless Lot? will the United States soon become lawless like the Middle East?
Deep inside I pray that we are not but sometimes I have to wonder. Thinking about it makes me suffer and makes the monkey in my mind spin its little wheels like a gerbil that has nothing better to do than just sit and worry about politics and the craziness of the world. And that is not what Buddha wants us ( okay- me) to do.