Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I've come a long way

In my last post I discussed my decision to pursue the goals I have in life by enjoying them for their own merit, letting go of the idea of 'self-improvement.' This means that, for now, I want to do things because they make me happy, not because my life is some kind of pet project. 

A few years ago, I was an aggressive and very impatient person. Needless to say, these emotions caused me a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety. My troubles were compounded by the fact that I didn't have a constructive way of dealing with them. 

Enter my 'discovery' of Buddhism. If such a thing were to exist, it was like being hit (hard) with an enlightenment stick! Suddenly the ideas I had believed all my life (yet had not quite connected) were right there in front of me. Intellectual appreciation gave way to effort, effort to practice, and practice to a way of life. My realizations and initial zeal were also tempered by the indispensable Buddhist concept of rejecting extremes and following the Middle Way

Slowly and steadily, my attitudes towards other people and the world around me changed. Don't get me wrong, I still get angry and act unskillfully. But I in the past few years I have grown more calm, patient, and understanding. I regularly engage in activities that require self-discipline, like meditation, mindful eating, and practicing yoga. I also try (and sometimes succeed) in making an effort to practice Metta, or loving-kindness, towards all beings. I take part in these activities because I feel it is the right thing to do.

I realize now that this type of action is very different from the 'self-improvement' I had always pursued. Although (usually) unintentional, my efforts at 'improvement' had been outwardly motivated, to seek approval from others. It took me a long time to discover this pattern, not to mention how draining and demoralizing it can be. Now that I know, I am ready to let it go. It is time to focus on effort that is not only beneficial, but filled with freedom and joy.

In making this decision to change my motivation, I believe I have come a long way!  
*****
In our lives, we are all on our own great journey. How do you feel that you have you come a long way in your life? What does the term 'self improvement' mean to you? As always, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

May all beings be happy!

16 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. "And act unskillfully" was a great way to phrase your sentence. Keeping a situation from overtaking our emotions is a skill indeed. A skill I still work on heavily.

      I have become such a calmer person as I age. I still have a quick temper but it is much less quick and definitely less long term anger. I forgive easier and this simple thing has made such an impact on almost every other aspect of my life.

      That being said, there are still things that blaze me up like a bonfire. I make my piece known but I try to do it in a constructive way rather than a "rawr rawr rawr" display. (Note: I still tend to rawr rawr rawr from time to time.)

      I must admit that my son is partially responsible for this. Not in the "oh I have a child and my life is so dramatically different" way.. but .. by example. My son is an old soul. He lets very little anger him. He feels love for everyone and everything. He is a genuinely pleasant soul. He was born this way. Sometimes his words are so wise and calming.. I learn from this person who is supposed to be learning from me.

      Self improvement to me is both outward and inward. Some improvements I have made were internally and just for me. Others are for material things (pursuing a higher degree to get a better job to get a better paycheck). As much as I move towards enlightenment, I know I have a long ways to go. It's okay, I don't worry about it.. it will happen as it happens.

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    2. I'm sorry Lon, that I did not get to respond before you deleted your comment. Thanks for stopping by, though!

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    3. DJ, thank you so much for your great comment.

      I am glad you like the term 'unskillfully'. That is something I learned from Buddhism, is that in some way each of our actions (and everything that exists) is not inherently 'good' or 'bad'. Not in a wimpy, 'moral equivalency' type of way, but just that many things are ambiguous, and can have different values in different situations. However, usually being angry is 'bad' so it is tagged as 'unskilful'. Descriptive of the situation, yet not necessarily absolute.

      As for anger, you have pointed out something I forgot to mention. I too have calmed down a little bit simply due to being more 'mature', whatever that means :) But the reality is, we all get angry sometimes, it's just a human emotion. Not that it's our birthright, but there are just a lot of layers of ourselves we have to work through sometimes.

      I like what you said about your son. I do not have children, but I think they can really teach us so much. It's funny how sometimes kids do and know stuff and parents are like, "I have no idea where that came from!" :)

      I hope you have a great day, and thank you again for your comment!

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  2. Renata, you're right on the mark with your comment about seeking approval of others being so draining. By the way, I really like on how you end each post: May All beings be happy! It is so uplifting.

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    1. Thanks so much, Dan, for your comment. Yes, I think to find that acting just to please others is draining is something we all must learn the hard way!

      I am glad you like the way I end my posts- It took me a while to think of it (which is why early posts I have not edited do not have it). I like it because it does not necessarily have any 'Buddhist' connotations, but is simply something we all want, and therefore all have in common!

      Your kind comment has inspired me to write a post about why I say this, which will also include a translation of this saying into Sanskrit, provided to me by my mother-in-law, who also enjoys this post ending. Stay tuned! :)

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  3. Oops I think I replied to a reply rather than to the post.

    Additionally, "rawr rawr rawr" is bear noises of grumpiness.

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    1. No worries! I am not a 'comment nazi' hahaha :)

      Oh, and I get the 'rawr, rawr, rawr,' I do that too! :)

      Have a great day!

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  4. Dear Renata,

    The reason I decided to delete my comment is that I found I wasn't making much sense (to myself) personally.

    I find great wisdom in this post of yours though.

    And I want to thank you for commenting on a recent post that I did on the blog that I have, for your comment was of great help to me, so much, that I deleted that post along with another one. If you decide to stop by my friend, you'll see the change. Once again, thank you.

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    1. Dear Lon,
      Oh okay- no problem! Your comments are always welcome! :)

      Thanks so much for your kind comment you've posted today. These are just experiences and realizations I have had where things somehow began to make sense! :)

      As for my comment, I am so happy that I helped in some way-I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the post. I was hoping that I had not offended you, because I didn't know exactly how you felt about that post and did not want to be presumptive.

      I like reading your blog because I enjoy the way you explain things, and describe your daily life and how it fits in with your journey and discovery. I have stopped by your blog even before I saw your comment and noticed the changes you have implemented. As always, I look forward to your next post!

      May you be well and happy!

      Renata

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  5. :)
    As I read your story, I wonder, Are you like me, trying to look for something?

    You practices a lot of things and you also used the word mature... :)

    For months I search for ways to be calm and to guard the five senses. I found my answer just a few days ago by a teacher that attracted me to Buddhism. His name is Eckhart Tolle. He taught a lot of Being and Living in the Now. A very powerful lesson but Being is not recommended by Buddhism as Being is self. On the path to Nirvana or Nibanna which is emptiness or nothingness we have to cross Anatta which is no self. How can we have no self? Self itself is ego. We can only be aware of it but not eliminate or destroy ego.

    It doesn't make sense at all. The best we can do is being aware of it. Later I discover that the same teacher also says this "The more we are aware of ourselves then eventually the things like desire will fall away from you."

    Awareness is mindfulness. It is just in a different term but it is the same thing. This is why Venerable Ji Xing tells me "be very mindful of everything you do".
    He told me on the month of May, now in July did I fully understand what he means. By being mindful, I can be calm and able to guard my five senses successfully. By Being mindful, I do not need to control, destroy or eliminate ego but ego itself will fall away and disappear.

    When I compare to the Four Foundation of Mindfulness, it struck me. By Being aware or mindful of your body, your mind, your feelings and your mental image or dhamma then with this will I be fully awakened and reach Nibanna or Nirvana. This however is my pure speculation and I am practicing to see it is true but I think this is it.

    I believe now, eventhough I start from right understanding and I will continue to practice it, if I am not being mindful then all of it was for naught. It is by being Mindful that everything is possible. I believe that Mindfulness is the key to awakening. One day I hope I do not believe it anymore but to know and see it as it is.

    Buddha never ask us to believe him but to know, see and experience it.

    Peace be with you. :)

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    1. Thanks so much, xenusfreeman, for your detailed and insightful comment. I love the way you have connected Right Understanding, the five senses and mindfulness!

      I also very much agree with your assertion that if we aren't mindful of our practice, then we have nothing. I am glad that Ven. Ji Xing was the one who taught you this. He is amazing in that he is full of wisdom and answers to our questions, but also makes us think for ourselves.

      Thanks again for your comment, I enjoyed reading it!

      And may Peace be with you, too!

      Renata

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    2. Yes, Ji Xing is a one of a kind teacher whose every word holds a deep meaning. Luckily I have written most of it down in a forum so I can refer into it whenever I forget. I hope I can meet him again and I best be very prepared for it too. :)

      Mindfulness is indeed a very good subject of study itself. As I follow Eckhart Tolle teaching, I understand that when we are very Mindful is when our mind is completely still and quiet. Without stillness and quietness, the insight or inner wisdom will not arise.

      I have experience this Inner Wisdom before and found that it is most interesting when I were suddenly realised the truth in the sutta that I have read a week ago or a sudden realization of the significant meaning of a word.

      Be very mindful and have a right understanding which this both will lead you to calm and inner peace.

      Peace be with all of you.

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    3. Thanks for your comment- I will have to read some of Ekhart Tolle's works, which up until now I have not. I am sure they are very interesting and insightful.

      It is also good that you have written down and posted the teachings of Ji Xing so that others can benefit from it. It is very benevolent of you!

      May you be well!

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    4. Benevolent of me? Well, I am not entirely that :) but I like to share my experience since I find it a pity for those who did not have the chance to meet him. Others should have a chance to meet such a wise and calm man or at least know of his wise words.

      You should have a strong basic of Buddhism before you start Eckhart Tolle's book which is the Power of Now and New Earth. It is quite amazing books which clarify quite a number of things if we are just beginners of Buddhism but not beginners of Spiritual Learning.

      I share his book for free. Please do buy it if you like it. :) Here is the link.

      http://www.mediafire.com/view/?8pj63ladkb73o7n

      http://www.mediafire.com/view/?pzht7vmyov3r5hg

      Both link to two of his books.

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    5. Thanks! I will check them out :)

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Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and leave a comment! If you enjoyed this post, please share with others. -With Metta, Renata

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