Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The moment is now

A while ago a dear friend was lamenting the fact that she had not yet found someone to spend her life with. She felt that time has been ticking away, and was also frustrated with the fact that she was 'still' a graduate student. Exasperated and clearly struggling to show a brave face, she exclaimed, "I keep wondering when my life is going to begin!"

This admission surprised me, simply because I have so much admiration for her. Not only talented, intelligent, and hard working, she has a kind heart. She has traveled the world and has had many work and life experiences, which also makes her incredibly interesting and fun to talk to.

So I couldn't help but be taken aback- How could someone who has so much to offer feel this way?

Then I remembered that she was not the only one. A few years ago (also while working on my graduate degree) I also felt like my life had somehow stalled, and that I was in a pretty deep rut. In fact, I remember thinking those very same words!

Of course, having these thoughts is not unusual, and I am sure that many people feel this way every so often. Fast forward to now, almost everything in my life has changed, with some adjustments having been easier than others. Though I no longer feel that I'm in a rut, or that my life has 'not begun', I do sometimes long for simpler times.

Having now seen both sides of this perplexing coin, I am reminded of a short post I wrote the same year I started BCB. It was about climbing the hill near the apartment where I lived during graduate school, where at the end of a long day my tired mind would chant, "almost there, almost there" as I hauled myself up that long hill. After being exposed to many great writings about mindfulness, I decided that it was important to not focus only on the comfy apartment waiting for me, but to also acknowledge the many moments that comprised my effort to get there. I felt that this approach potentially carried a lot of merit with all types of journeys, be they physical, spiritual, or emotional.

As time goes on, we are bound to encounter many peaks and valleys- such is the nature of life. But no matter where we are or what we're doing (or how 'stuck' we may feel) our lives all have begun, existing here and now in the present moment- the most precious of all gifts.

"The present moment contains past and future. The secret of transformation, is in the way we handle this very moment." Thich Nhat Hanh, Understanding Our Mind, 2006
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May all beings be happy!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Why the idea of 'minimalism' makes me chuckle

Over the past few years I have admired those who have pared down their possessions to live a simpler, less cluttered life. In this effort, many people have succeeded in becoming debt-free, less driven (and burdened) by 'consumerism'; perhaps even healthier. The 'minimalist' movement has had such an impression on me that I have also begun to follow suit with my own approach, which I like to call "Living Simply". 

However, the humor of this societal (and personal) transformation has not been lost on me. 

Reading about people living in one room with just a futon mattress and a few clothes (or going completely nomadic), I have noticed an unmistakable tone of pride and accomplishment. No doubt this is because people are excited about what minimalism has done for them, and wish to encourage others.

But what makes me laugh is that back in the day, these "lifestyles" of frugality were the norm. In fact, for most people it was what was called living (we also know that this- and even less- is still the norm for millions in the developing world).

According to many minimalists, the benefits of choosing minimalism include promoting sustainable living and reaching out to those in need. I believe these benefits are real. Since this is a choice within our current conditions (which are relatively cushy), there might be some justification for those attempting to live more simply to give ourselves a tiny little pat on the back.  

But I would also say not to take ourselves too seriously. Instead, I think it best  to just be thankful for what we have right now (and the choices we have), without attachment or aversion. After all, for those of us fortunate enough have access to education, vaccinations, safe water, and religious freedom, these things, while not physical possessions, are all 'things' we like to have- and would not want to part with. 

So in regarding paring down my possessions as some great personal accomplishment, I will remain cautious. Although I might feel 'skilled' in my effort to live with less, making this effort while in the midst of such abundance and stability also gives me yet another opportunity to smile amusedly in spite of myself.

"Whatever precious jewel there is in the heavenly worlds, there is nothing comparable to one who is Awakened." ~ The Buddha (Sutta Nipata) 
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What are your thoughts about the current trends in minimalism? What quirks have you noticed?

May all beings be happy!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

'God is watching us'

A short while ago, my husband, daughter, and I were spending time with a dear friend. Ever philosophical, our friend has previously disputed the distinctions made between the myriad of deities that people call 'God' (or Goddess, as the case may be).

In fact, he goes as far as to facetiously call them 'brands'. Given the divisive manner in which many in the 'spiritual' hierarchy with a lot to gain (and a lot to lose) play the 'my god, your god' game, this description resonated with me.

But last time we spoke, he put a more personal spin on the discussion. Looking at our little one sitting in her high chair and smiling as she gummed a Cheerio, he reminded us of the truth that we know so well but don't often consider: no matter where we are or what we are doing, she is always watching us, and learning from the things we do.

Of course children have watched and learned from their parents since time immemorial, and other species do the same. But the our friend's reasoning was based on his rejection of the notion that some omnipresent 'being' is constantly checking up on us, weighing our good actions with the not-so-good. In his view there is really no need for such surveillance, because it is already an integral part of family life. "She will do what you do and say what you say; she is your conscience and a clear, pure reflection of you as a person, not just as a parent. 'God' is watching us through our children's eyes."

Whether someone is agnostic, deeply spiritual, or spiritually ambivalent, I feel this idea is an extremely powerful (and for parents, perhaps universal) reminder to be mindful of our thoughts, words, and behavior.

When watching after yourself, you watch after others. When watching after others, you watch after yourself." ~ The Buddha (Samyutta Nikaya)
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What did you think of this post? Is there a reminder that you use in your daily life to steer yourself towards wholesome conduct? Please share in the comments!

Delight in heedfulness! Guard well your thoughts! ~ The Buddha (Dhammapada) 

May all beings be happy!