Saturday, November 2, 2013

Buddhist FAQs: My views and experiences

Since I have started following the Buddhist Path, people have asked me questions about being Buddhist, and about Buddhists in general. These questions are interesting to me because they seem to reveal a set of expectations/generalizations people have about Buddhists, but often also indicate genuine interest and curiosity. Below I try to list some of the questions I (and others like me) have encountered, and give the best answer I can. Feel free to read my answers to the questions that interest you, and post your thoughts- and additional questions- in the comments below. 

How long do you meditate?
For me, not very long- about 10 minutes. Despite my best efforts, sitting for long periods of time causes pain. However, the good news for me and others who find sitting difficult is that there are many ways to meditate. Meditation can also be done sitting in a chair, lying down, and during activities like walking, cooking, and eating. Personally I enjoy walking meditation, and have benefited from alternating mindful contemplation with mindful walking and awareness during my long strolls. But one of the best answers to this question I have heard was from a monk named Venerable Sik Ji Xing, who, when asked said, "I meditate for 24 hours a day". This means that on and off the cushion, he makes a constant effort to be mindful, every minute of every day. Rather than worrying how long we can sit, I think this is truly a beautiful aspiration.

How often do you meditate?
I do sitting and walking meditation almost every day. As noted above, the key to meditation is being mindful and in the present moment wherever you are and whatever you're doing.

Aren't you vegetarian/vegan?
Nope. But my simple answer belies my complex thoughts on the matter. Looking for guidance in the Five Moral Precepts, Buddhists know that the very first one is clearly stated as "Refrain from killing."

But what is not clear is the prevailing view of the Buddhist community. For example, most Buddhist sects have no problem with laypeople eating meat. The kitchen of the Dalai Lama's residence at Dharmasala, India is vegetarian, but while abroad the Dalai Lama XIV has been known to eat meat. The Buddha himself was not a vegetarian, and when challenged to make all monks vegetarian, the Buddha refused. This I believe has a strong connection to the fact that all Bhikkus (Pali for monks) were to beg for alms each day, and therefore must accept the food given to them, whatever the source (indeed, the root meaning for the word Bhikku is 'to beg'). The main instruction the Buddha gave was to laypeople, that under no circumstances is an animal to be slaughtered for the benefit of a monk. This is likely linked to the Buddha's banning of animal sacrifice, a common practice in the Hindu community during his time.

How does all this relate to me? Well, for the most part, I eat a plant-based diet, but not exclusively. I feel the desire to eat meat less and less, and think this trend will continue. However, my goal is that even if I were to willingly stop eating meat, I would also not want to develop aversion towards it, so that I could still be grateful and gracious guest if someone were to serve me a meat-based meal.

Do you consume alcohol?
Yes, if you're talking about wine. As a family doctor once told my mother- "Wine is food!". The fifth of the Five Moral Precepts advises that one should refrain from the consumption of intoxicants that cause heedlessness. In my view, wine and beer can be consumed in moderation when enjoyed with other foods, without being a dire threat to mindfulness. However, I do believe that it is more difficult to consume 'hard' liquors in moderation, and almost impossible to do so for psychoactive drugs. I have never taken the latter type of intoxicants, but instinctively feel they would annihilate mindfulness.

Of course, please keep in mind that as far as my opinion about drinking wine and (small amounts of) spirits are concerned, other Buddhists may adamantly disagree with me. Alcohol is also off-limits to those on retreat and pursuing a monastic lifestyle, so please be aware that my thoughts about consuming alcohol relate to myself only. 

You think everything is suffering, right? How is that working out for you?
Well geez, if you put it that way . . . ! Actually, it's working out just fine, because it seems that many who are unfamiliar with Buddhism are put off by the First Noble Truth due to a misunderstanding of the Buddhist definition of suffering.

Yes, there is suffering, but the Pali word dukkha that we translate as 'suffering' actually has a much more complex meaning. Dukkha encompasses all suffering, from minor discomfort to extreme misery. It also refers to the unsatisfactoriness of all things, which directly relates to impermanence. But the beauty of the Four Noble Truths is that they read like the directions from a good doctor. There is a problem (dukkha, or suffering/unsatisfactoriness), there is a cause (tanha, or selfish craving), there is a cure, and that cure is following the Noble Eightfold Path. Suddenly- and thankfully- that suffering doesn't sound so bad. That is because not only is there a cure, but although it's not easy, realizing that cure is entirely within our control.   
Buddhists don't believe in God, right?
Those who have some background in Buddhism may have learned that the Buddha was not a god (although he may be worshipped as such in different traditions), but he was a human being as mortal as you and me. The difference is that Siddartha Guatama, a prince afflicted with worldly desires, overcame all suffering by becoming enlightened as a Buddha, who came to know the true nature of all things. His teachings are profound and universal, yet do not depend upon an omnipotent deity.

However, many misinterpret this as all Buddhists being atheists. While some are, Buddhism itself is most correctly described as non-theist. That means that to believe what Buddhists believe, and to live a pious life, a deity or god is not required- but is also not explicitly prohibited.

What do I think? Well, since starting on the Buddhist path, I grew to no longer see 'god' as some mysterious entity watching over us, consumed with the minutia of our daily 'virtue' and 'sin'. Instead I view God as a profound force of goodness and peace that is all around us. I often feel this great force when I walk within Nature. However, in making these statements, I am aware that people may agree or disagree.

What do you think happens, you know, after we die?
Frankly, I think it is fair to say that I simply don't know, and that I doubt that there are many out there who do. But I guess that if I can't say what people know, then I can summarize what I have read on the subject- at least as I understand it.

In the Abrahamic traditions, there is the concept of the everlasting soul. It goes on forever, unchanging, through one single lifespan and continuing long after the body's death. In Hinduism, there is also a concept of an unchanging, everlasting soul. This is known as Atman, or the realization of one's true self, which can span the duration of many earthly lives. In contrast, while Buddhists also believe their 'souls' are capable of inhabiting many different forms over vast expanses of time, they maintain that this 'soul' (often referred to consciousness or 'mindstream' in Buddhist terms) is constantly changing. Though they share the fundamental view that realization of the true nature of all things (including this 'thing' called 'self') leads to Nirvana, this ever-changing mindstream is one philosophical difference between Buddhism and Hinduism. In addition, through the Bardo Thodol (Tibetan book of the dead) Tibetan Buddhism has contributed extensively to possible explanations of what happens to our consciousness between death and the next rebirth.

However, though these different ideas are extremely interesting, I believe that if asked, I would not like to engage in a debate about this topic, simply because I do not (and may never) understand the truth. As far as I'm concerned, the important thing is how we use our current life to become a better person and benefit others.

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I hope you enjoyed this post. Are these questions you have come across as a Buddhist, or as a member of another faith/worldview? Do you have any questions to add? As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.

May all beings be happy!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Trying too hard

Since discovering Buddhism as a way of life in 2007, I have seen some interesting things happen to people, including myself. For example, when I first started along the Buddhist path, I was very, well . . . let's just say I was enthusiastic. 

What I mean by that is once I was comfortable with fundamental Buddhist ideas, I really dove in. I read books, went to retreats, meetings, and events focused on Buddhism; I meditated and walked mindfully. Most of all, I had compassion for ALL living beings. No matter what, I strove to be compassionate and wise in all my actions . . .

I think you can see where this is going.

Then one evening I was walking home, a to-go vegetarian meal from Panera in my hand (a rare treat for me at the time). Out of nowhere, a homeless man came up to me asking for a dollar. Me, in my ever-noble "Buddhist" mode, handed him the dinner I had so been looking forward to. At first taken aback, the man thanked me, but proceeded to ask yet again for a dollar! Now it was my turn to be speechless. "But . . . but, I have just given you my dinner," I stammered. "Sorry, I don't have a dollar for you." (That was true- I had just spent my last bit of cash on the meal I had given him!). 

As you can imagine, I went home more than a little miffed. There I was, a grad student living paycheck to paycheck, "compassionately" giving my dinner to someone with the nerve to only ask for more! What the #*$@? 

Then I realized my mistake. For all my good intentions, I was trying too hard- and expecting too much. But I couldn't say that I didn't know better. Buddhism advocates that we should all work diligently to improve our attitudes and habits- However, we must also acknowledge that these changes take time. Although by nature we are all Buddhas-to-be, instantaneous revelation of our Buddha-nature (especially through self-righteous actions) is unlikely. Reflecting on that encounter with that (grateful, but) persistent homeless man, I was forced to revisit that fact. 

From that evening onwards, I started to let go a little bit. I let myself make mistakes, to be apathetic and impatient, to get angry. But, in contrast to before I had set along the Buddhist path, each time I engaged these negative emotions I learned from being aware of the harm they can do. Being more mindful of the consequences of my thoughts and actions has been a practical approach that I believe has helped me become a better person.

Since then, I have seen this type of experience happen to others. With the best of intentions, people (but especially it seems, new Buddhists) try so hard to be compassionate to all beings, wise in all their actions, striving towards enlightenment (and more often than not, humbly broadcasting their compassionate thoughts on social media!). As one can imagine, all this puts enormous pressure on any individual who is making their way along the Buddhist path- or any other path for that matter. 

Based on my my observations, there are generally two outcomes to this behavior. Some people eventually realize that their efforts are not sustainable and step back towards the Middle Way, while others buckle under the pressure and have a complete meltdown. Obviously, I think most of us would prefer the former. 

It is important to remember that as human beings most of us are struggling to find meaning, purpose, and peace in our lives. As we stumble along, it is painfully apparent how many wrong views and negative emotions we have. Overwhelmed, we may be tempted to go into fanatic overdrive to somehow make up for our unskillful actions. 

But we have to face the truth: Years -perhaps lifetimes- of bad habits are not going to disappear today. This type of change requires more than attending Buddhist retreats, switching to a vegetarian diet, and sitting in lotus position. It requires time, a lot of self-awareness, and most of all, hard work. As we slowly become more honest with ourselves, our thought patterns and actions will eventually be less driven by ego, or the the delusion that we have found some quick fix for years of carelessness. 

In truth, this is much more easier said than done. As I travel the Buddhist path, I for one am only making very small steps in what I believe is the right direction. But through it all, I am grateful for having found the Middle Way as a practical, balanced, and straightforward guide for my intentions, behavior, and life. 

*****
What did you think about this post? Have you witnessed others trying too hard to improve, or done this yourself? Do you think the Middle Way is the antidote to overzealousness?  

May all beings be happy!   

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Happy Dussehra!

For something a little different, I just wanted to wish my Hindu friends and family a Happy Dussehra! Dussehra is the celebration of the female Shakti, or trinity of Goddesses Lakshmi, Durga, and Saraswati. As one can imagine, women are central to the celebration and prayer, of which the focus are the Goddesses and offerings of their favorite foods. There is often also a special and creatively decorated construction called a Golu, which women build and show to other women who, along with their children, come to their house to admire- and also to eat delicious foods and socialize.

Below is a very simple Golu I put together for this year's Dussehra. Enjoy!


*****
May all beings be happy!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Mealtime meditation: reflections on food

A few days ago I came across this beautiful mealtime meditation. It is from Ajahn Sumedho's The Way it is - a wonderfully introspective lecture-based book that delves into emptiness, dependent origination, and non-dualism. Sprinkled throughout are several thought-provoking reflections, including this one focusing on food. I thought it was a great reminder to be grateful for the food we eat and the nourishment it provides, so that we may continue our efforts to lead a good and wholesome life. 

Reflections on food

Wisely reflecting on this alms-food
I use it not to distract my mind
Nor to gratify desire,
Not to make my form impressive
Or to make it beautiful,
Simply to be sustained and nourished
And to maintain what health I have
To help fulfill the Holy Life;
   With this attitude in mind,
'I will allay hunger without overeating
So that I may continue to live blamelessly and at ease.'

*****
I think this also goes nicely with another wonderful mealtime meditation I posted years ago. I hope you enjoyed this blessing- What is your favorite mealtime prayer or meditation?

May all beings be happy!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Letting go of dread, letting go of suffering

After several stressful weeks at work, this weekend I was finally able to kick back and relax for a bit- at least in theory. However, instead of thoroughly enjoying my time, I was (like millions of other people) bothered by a nagging sense of dread about going back to work on Monday. Of course, this put a little bit of a damper on my enjoyment of this much-anticipated down time. 

Last night it finally clicked: There I was, relaxing and spending time with my husband when the dread came over me again. Instead of giving in, I stopped for a moment and thought about the feeling. Sure, I had experienced a stressful few weeks, where weekends were just days crammed with more work. I acknowledged that it may actually take some time to 'come down' from the frantic pace and the pressure I had been under. 

But most of all, I realized what was happening was the flip side of what I usually do, the behavior I am aware of; and that is avoiding unpleasantness. From a Buddhist perspective, this can be called aversion. When viewed in the context of the Second Noble Truth, that suffering is caused by tanha, or selfish craving, it is clear that aversion is just a way that we express tanha by avoiding how things really are because of our own self-centered view of how they should be. Thus, we suffer.  

However, this time my dread was not motivated by aversion, but rather attachment, which is really another facet of tanha. When we experience something pleasurable, we hold on to it in our mind, grasping at the pleasure and fun because we never want it to end. But we know it will, and as we are reminded of this fact, we suffer. 

It is not that I have never done this, or that I no longer am prone to attachment (far from it!), but that in many ways I (thought I) had become better at enjoying myself in the moment because I had also become more accepting of the impermanent nature of all things, especially the good ones. Yet there I was this weekend, suffering as I grasped at joyous moments- and suffering in the moments between! 

My conclusion? I can only guess that this attitude is a product of stress, and that I need to find a way to deal with it. Moreover, I also suspect that my heightened feelings of attachment are directly (perhaps even proportionally) related to the strong aversion I felt towards that stress, indicating that as far as tanha goes, attachment and aversion seem inseparably - and profoundly- linked.  

What can you say about your experience with aversion and attachment? Do you agree they are linked in the way I described? Any advice? 
*****
May all beings be happy! 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Minimalism = Wastefullness?

As you may know, over the past year or so I have been challenging myself to live more simply. Not wanting to be limited by labels, I have rejected the term minimalism, and instead chosen Living Simply, because it has broad connotations that anyone can customize and apply to their own life. 

To be completely honest though, I must say that I do admire the accomplishments of minimalist 'celebrities' such as Francine Jay of Miss Minimalist, and Leo Babauta of Zenhabits. From what I have read about them, they seem to advocate minimalism in a compassionate and non-judgmental way that is accessible to all. 

However, I have noticed a disturbing trend among others who call themselves minimalists. While many provide helpful tips about decluttering and paring down, I am a little put off by a term that seems to be constantly on the tip of their tongues: 

Toss it out. 

So, you have a piece of furniture that you no longer want? Toss it out. Clothes you no longer find desirable? Toss them out.  Food in your pantry that you no longer wish to eat? Toss it out.  

Giving these individuals the benefit of the doubt, perhaps the alternatives to 'tossing it out', such as donating, selling, or recycling are understood. But, given the frequency with which I read this phrase, sometimes I wonder.

If someone out there is literally swimming in clutter, I understand the impulse to just 'get rid of it!'. Cluttered homes, workplaces and schedules can certainly take a toll on mental well-being. However, I just hope that decluttering in most cases can be done with a sense of mindfulness and willingness to benefit others- despite the urge to just chuck everything into a landfill!

What do you think?

*****
May all beings be happy!  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Karma and blaming the victim

Here is a word that gets thrown around a lot in pop-culture: 

Karma.

And it is really starting to annoy me. 

It seems that every time something tragic happens to a group of people, someone says, "Well, they did _____, so that's just karma. They got what they deserved." 

First of all, it is very unlikely that everyone affected by a catastrophe should be 'guilty' of something that warrants such widespread suffering. But even if it were true, is that really the correct attitude to adopt when something bad happens to someone else? 

Is this what we would want others to say, if we were affected by tragedy?

Let me tell you something about karma. Back in my Sangha at university, people would often be surprised when I declined to discuss it. I gave two reasons: 

1) I was not well-versed in how different Buddhist traditions might view and discuss karma. 

2) In my experience, when not done mindfully, such discussions easily lead to intense metaphysical arguments, which I believe are not helpful (and could perhaps even be harmful) to practice. 

In my opinion, and from what I have read and observed, karma is laden with innumerable variables, too vast and complex for most of us to comprehend, let alone explain to others. It is not the same thing as justice under the law, where there are specific consequences for those who are found guilty of a crime. Despite its pop-culture meaning, karma is not merely a punisher. It is a phenomenon that directly affects every one of us, not based on guilt or innocence, but on all our actions. 

We have all experienced times when we did something we thought was very skillful, only to have something unfortunate happen as a result (or vise versa!). Looking at our infinite number of thoughts, words, and actions (and also, as Buddhists believe, lives), and how they are so intimately intertwined with those of others, we may never know why things happen the way they do. 

But the important thing is that while we acknowledge our lack of total control, we also realize that we do own our thoughts, words, and actions, and must take responsibility for them. The idea is not to control or decipher our karma, but to find ways (i.e. make choices) to improve it without being preoccupied by the outcome. After all, the only time we ever really have is the present moment

That is why I believe it is very foolish to invoke karma to collectively blame victims of tragedy. This is because it is truly a waste of the moment in which we respond to bad news, a moment that could make an unpredictable and sometimes scary world a better place. While every tragedy surely has a cause, victims of such events need only one thing from us, and that is our compassion

*****
Do you think there is a knee-jerk tendency for society to blame the victim/s of tragic events? If so, what can we do differently?

May all beings be happy!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Parable of the Lute

One of the most important impacts Buddhism has had on my life is fully introducing me to the concept of the Middle way.

A beautiful way this core Buddhist principle is explained is through the Parable of the Lute. Although there is one major lesson to be learned from this Buddhist parable, there are several widely known versions of this story. 

*****
The first focuses on the experiences of Sona, who was a monk meditating alone in the forest during the time of the Buddha. Although he meditated diligently, he was frustrated by his lack of spiritual progress. He went to the Buddha to ask him why he was not being successful in his practice.

The Buddha answered, "Tell me Sona, in earlier days, were you not skilled in playing the stringed music of the lute?"

"Yes Lord" replied Sona.

"And, tell me, Sona, when the strings on the lute were too taut, was then your lute tuneful and easily playable?"

"Certainly not, O Lord."

"And when the strings on the lute were too loose, was then your lute tuneful and easily playable?"

"Certainly not, O Lord."

"But when, Sona, the strings of your lute were neither too taut nor too loose, and adjusted to an even pitch, did your lute then have a wonderful sound, and then was it easily playable?"

"Certainly, O Lord."

"Similarly Sona, if energy is applied too strongly, it will lead to restlessness, and if energy is too lax, it will lead to lassitude. Therefore Sona, keep your energy in balance and balance the Spiritual Faculties and in this way focus your attention."

*****
The previous discourse is from the Anguttara Nikaya, which literally means "increased by one collection". It is the fourth of the five nikayas (collections) in the Sutta Pitaka, which is part of the Pali Tipitaka of Theravada Buddhism. I found this version of the Parable of the Lute on a personal website citing Jack Kornfield's The Teachings of the Buddha, and from a Google Book, Buddhist Wisdom, The Path to Enlightenment. The terms and context pertaining to the Anguttara Nikaya can be found on Wikipedia.




Finally, here is a neat cartoon video clip depicting the exchange between Sona and the Buddha. I believe that it is done quite well, and would be perfect to show to teens and pre-teens. The video ends with commentary about following the Middle Way from the young people narrating the animation.

*****
In other versions of this parable, realization of The Middle Way through the proper tuning of a lute was made by Siddhartha Gautama (who later became the Buddha) himself. 

From what I have read so far, the following version has two variations: 

One day Siddhartha was meditating near a river bank. He was near starvation, his face sunken, his hair matted. He heard a fisherman teaching a young boy the proper way to tune a lute, a kind of stringed instrument. The fisherman said, "Listen, when the strings of the lute are too loose, the lute does not produce any sound, but when you tune it too tight, the strings snap. Only when the strings are tuned just right the lute can make music." (a similar variation describes the conversation between young girls learning to play the lute). 

Siddhartha, who had at that point spent several years depriving his body in his quest for enlightenment, had a revelation; One can achieve wisdom neither by a life of merriment nor of mortification, but only by a life lived in moderation- The Middle Way. This realization had very important implications for Siddhartha; his change in course would eventually lead him to enlightenment and to develop the foundations of Buddhism- the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.

Indeed, Siddhartha's realization, and his teaching of this revelation to others, has had a huge impact on the history of the world. Providing a major guiding principle for millions of practicing Buddhists (and perhaps many others), his teaching helps us strive to guard ourselves against extremes that lead to ignorance, anger, and attachment.

*****
Does this parable resonate with you? What is your favorite version? Do you know of another version that you would like to share? How did learning about the Middle Way change your life?

May all beings be happy!  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Buddha Next Door

Having spent some time on Buddhist forums and websites, I have found that a common lament among Buddhists is that they are solitary, practicing without a 'physical' Sangha (Buddhist community), or a teacher with whom they practice face-to-face.

Although I could easily make this post a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of the virtual Sangha, that's not what I want to do.  

Instead, I think it is important for people who are practicing Buddhism in a solitary way to think about their solitude differently. As we've discussed before here at BCB, labels are strange little animals. They can be accurate or inaccurate, true or misleading. Labels can help us make sense of our world, or confuse us completely. That is why it is important to be mindful of them. Because of their propensity to help, we should not disregard them. Yet, because of their potential to mislead, we should not push aside the possibility of being completely surprised. 

And to be completely honest, we are often surprised when we venture (or are permitted) to look beyond the label that someone has described themselves with. My point is, although we might be practicing 'alone', as a 'solitary' Buddhist, 'without a Sangha', we are not. As Buddhists, we must remember that core Buddhist principles can be practiced by anyone, whether or not they consider themselves Buddhists- or even know anything about Buddhism!

When we take notice, we see many people around us who are just trying to lead a good and moral life, through a number of different paths. In fact, it is likely that they emphasize some of the same things that we as Buddhists do!

So although we would not want to arbitrarily label others as Buddhists just because of this fact, we can see others who do not call themselves Buddhists as part of our community. Indeed, that is the case for the whole world, whether we like it or not.

In short, while I agree that seeking and belonging to a like-minded community is just as important to Buddhists as it is for others, if we can't find one we should not be discouraged. There is always an opportunity to learn from people, whether or not they are Buddhist. In fact, anyone around us who is full of compassion, generosity, wisdom, and happiness, can truly be our inspiration; our Buddha-next-door.
*****

The Five Moral Precepts:
1. Refrain from killing
2. Refrain from stealing
3. Refrain from sexual misconduct
4. Refrain from lying
5. Refrain from the taking of intoxicants

. . . Concepts which I believe inspire community and agreement between people of all faiths.

"Don't try to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist; use it to be a better whatever-you-already-are" - His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama   

May all beings be happy!   

Monday, April 29, 2013

Starting anew, starting small

It is amazing how feelings arise, grow, and eventually dissolve. Last year around this time, I was finishing up my graduate degree, and I was so done. So done with writing, with professors, with endless forms, corrections, done with everything

And to be honest, I continued to feel that way for over six months. But the more I look back, the more I realize that I probably needed it. It was a time to step away and say, alright, that's enough - I need to drop out for a while. And, despite my desire to be 'productive', even an A-type personality like me had to accept that reality. 

Now all that is far from my mind, and I am living a more contented life. Taking some time to re-prioritize my daily activities towards those that are meaningful and fulfilling has opened my eyes to how each day truly is a gift.  

I also realize that striving for something better while still being content with who I am now is possible. It is sometimes easier said than done, but it's happening. Everyday I take joy in learning new things, and anticipate activities with excitement rather than dread. Instead of being mocking reminders of things I probably won't accomplish, my aspirations now show my strength and abilities, my motivation to strive for something better.

As I start anew, I am starting small. I used to think that the only way to make progress was to spend huge blocks of time slogging away towards some nebulous 'goal'. But now, after much experience, I know that all the misplaced effort, the burnout, and yes, even pain, is not necessary. It has taken time, but I realize that all I need is to do a little each day, with fresh eyes and an open heart. And you know what? Instead of dreading the moment I must begin, now I am satisfactorily 'done' before I want to be!

As before, I am excited about where I'm going, but now also enjoy how far I have come, and most importantly, where I am now.

*****
Have you come to a point in your life where you've tired of the treadmill, gotten off, and discovered a new way of living? I would love to hear about it! Please share in the comments.

May all beings be happy!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

How to do less housework- Maybe even enjoy it!

"Yeah, right!" you scoff. But just hear me out. I am definitely no FlyLady, but I am beginning to see the light as far as cleaning goes. I don't hate cleaning, but like many people, I don't want to do more of it than I have to. That is why I came up with this list, to organize my thoughts, live up to my desire to Live Simply, and perhaps even help someone else in the process. Here are the lessons I have learned so far:

  • Remove your shoes. People from cultures all around the world (even Nordic ones) remove their shoes before entering their homes, both out or respect and for hygienic purposes. I agree on both counts. If you're not used to it, just give it a try (and reward yourself and your family with some comfy, feel-good slippers!). A simple idea, but it really makes a difference in keeping a house clean(er).
  • Determine the most important tasks. Do you really need to dust your cabinet of knickknacks once a week or vacuum behind the couch? Or even keep the bathroom mirror looking spotless? The answer is no. The truth is, while you might notice if your paperweights are not sparkling, only a few tasks are actually noticed by others. In my experience these are: A vacuumed carpet, a clean bathroom, an uncluttered kitchen/dining room table, and dust-free computers and work surfaces. Choose whatever is important to you, and relevant to your home.
  • Do a little every day/week. Once you've chosen the important tasks, do each of them once to twice a week, depending on your needs. There will also be some tasks that will only need to be done once a month or less, so schedule these accordingly (see below).
  • Set a time limit. Let's face it, there are already many daily tasks besides the those mentioned above. These may include (depending on your priorities) making the bed, cleaning the kitchen, cleaning up after pets, and just tidying up. That means that adding any other task could eat up more of your free time if you're not careful. Discovering this, I decided to set a time limit. If I am vacuuming the carpet and my timer for 10 minutes goes off, I turn off the vacuum and put it away- whether or not the whole carpet is vacuumed. So what if I missed a spot? I'll take care of it next time. Of course, setting a limit also depends on the size of your home- so see what works for you. Bonus: Working against the clock has helped me clean more efficiently, and tackle areas that need the most attention first. As they say, the rest is gravy. 
  • Be realistic. Know when when you are least likely to clean. For example, your busiest weekday or when you're trying to relax on the weekend. The world won't fall apart if you declare one day when there shall be no housework. In fact- it might make your world even better!  
  • Set a schedule. Now that you have chosen what tasks are important, how long it takes to do them, and when you are most likely to get them done, schedule it out. I have used Google calendar with great success, simply by adding tasks to a weekly or monthly calendar. Even if I don't do the task exactly on the day, it gives me a guideline so that I focus just on what needs to be done- and don't waste time on what doesn't.  
  • Ask for help. Just because your spouse works outside the home or your kids have school doesn't mean they can't pitch in. One regret I have heard from experienced parents is that they were too nervous or impatient to let their little ones help out around the house when they first showed the initiative. I have also read that some families make chores/decluttering a fun game for the whole family. So, try something to give yourself a break- it just might work! And don't be so proud, if someone offers to give you a hand, let them, even if you know they won't do a task as well as you. Give them the privilege of helping you, and use the occasion as yet another reminder that you don't have to do it all. 
  • Declutter. If nothing else is a magic bullet, decluttering is. After all, you don't have to clean or take care of items that are no longer in your possession. If you don't use something and you are just spending time cleaning around it, then seriously, what good is it? Nowadays there are so many resources out there, such as Goodwill, The Salvation Army, Freecycle, Craigslist, Ebay, even recycling centers for old clothes and electronics that cannot be sold or donated, so that it is possible to get rid of unwanted items without being (or feeling) wasteful. No need to go berserk decluttering all at once, but just a little at a time will make a big difference, especially in the long-run.  
  • Organize logically. If you have in fact chosen to go the decluttering route, you may find that organizing what is left becomes exponentially easier. But either way, a home's organization is so tied to personal preference, I won't say much about it, except that organization should be as simple, logical, and convenient as possible. 
  • Be mindful. From a Buddhist perspective, cleaning is an excellent reminder of impermanence. We may wish that a room - or our whole house- will stay the way it is just after we clean it, but we know that it isn't so. In fact, if we consider entropy, or the tendency of everything towards disorder, we may even feel that the universe is against us! But if we put aside our ego we know that cleaning isn't about having the most perfect, spotless home, but simply to provide an environment for comfortable and happy living. If we can do that, we are on our way to cultivating joy in life's most mundane activities.  

I hope you enjoyed this post, and that it was helpful to you in some way. As always, I welcome you to share your suggestions and personal experiences in the comments.

May all beings be happy! 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A special birthday

Recently my beloved Grandmother celebrated her 100th birthday. My husband and I planned a visit to join in the festivities, and were very happy we were there to witness such an occasion. Although it takes a lot of effort for her to speak, we could tell how happy and excited she was by the sparkle in her eyes and the smile on her face. Amazingly, my Grandmother now joins rank with several of her ancestors, who also lived to be centenarians.  

This special milestone got me thinking. Although knowing someone over 100 might temporarily trick us out of the reality that we live finite human lives, there is a real and greater lesson to be learned. With all the disease and dangers there still are in the world, we know that statistically, relatively few of us reach that grand old age. But we also know that it is possible to live to 100 and beyond, though we are never certain if we will until we have achieved it.  

That is why it is important to live a life that is governed by virtue, wisdom, and compassion. The longer we live, the more life experiences we have to look back on. And regardless of the inevitable challenges along the way, when we look back, we all want to have a sense of peace and contentment. Ever kind and helpful to others, my Grandmother lived that type of life, and despite the many hardships and sorrows of old age, this is its gift to her.

In turn, the stellar example she and people like her have set is a priceless lesson for the rest of us.

*****
Do you have someone close to you who lived a long life, a virtuous life, or both? What lessons have they taught you?        

"Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll be able to enjoy it a second time." Life's Little Instruction Book, by H. Jackson Brown, Jr. (not His Holiness the Dalai Lama :)

*****
May all beings be happy! 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Living Simply: lessons learned

This is a list of what I've learned since the beginning of my journey to live simply. Also, feel free to read these milestones alongside the full story behind my journey here

What I've learned (in no particular order):

1) If possessions are taken from me due to situations beyond my control, waiting before trying to replace them (rather than acting out of attachment) can be helpful.

2) Material possessions should serve me, not the other way around.

3) Everything in my home should be either useful, cherished, or both.

4) Excess material possessions can hinder relationships with other people.

5) Consuming food can be a great source of enjoyment, but food should not be consumed for comfort alone.

6) Eat to live well, but don't live to eat.

7) The main purpose of clothing is for comfort and protection from the elements. However, clothing can also be worn to adorn our own natural beauty, as opposed to the sole purpose of impressing others.

8) Small, frequent positive changes are much more effective (and less exhausting) than large infrequent changes.

9) Fewer high-quality items are better than many cheap, inferior quality items.

10) Fewer possessions, less time cleaning, more time for loved ones and cherished hobbies.

11) A house containing fewer possessions and a greater emphasis on life more easily becomes a home.

*****

Are you also on a journey dealing with excess material possessions? What have you learned so far? What are your goals?

May all beings be happy!

*****

"Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul." ~ Democritus

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Time for reflection

Hello fellow sentient beings! I may not have written in a while, but I have not been idle. In addition to really buckling down and applying for jobs, I have been thinking about a lot of things- and taking action. I don't know if I will write about all these things in detail here at BCB, but here they are!

I've been thinking about . . .

. . . productivity. Using President Eisenhower's method (made famous by Stephen Covey), I have taken a look at my daily/weekly/monthly activities and determined both their urgency and importance. This has helped a lot, and has led to me making significant changes in my priorities and how I spend my time.

. . . what it means to be a good citizen, and more specifically, a good American. I have been spending a lot of time self-educating, becoming more informed, and more active in the community. I also have devoured several biographies of famous Americans, which has been both fascinating and worthwhile.  

. . . cleaning. Mundane activities. How to do less of them, but still enough. I don't want to neglect our home and live in a mess, but since re-prioritizing, I find that less cleaning is definitely more. Because hey, there are more important things in life! :)

. . . organizing and decluttering. Directly related to cleaning, but a little more proactive. Currently I am in the midst of an all-out paper war, attacking each stack with my hand scanner, uploading the images, then shredding and discarding old receipts and papers. It has also been useful in locating important documents and storing them in a more organized fashion. I hope that the result will be an efficient filing system, documents that are easier to find, and a less cluttered home. We shall see!

. . . finances. As you can imagine, living on one small income on the east coast is not easy. So, I am trying to find ways to save (and potentially make) money. This past month I made some changes in the way I shop, resulting in a $100+ decrease in our grocery bill. It is a great start, but, there is more to do. The goal my husband and I have made is that we can start actually saving money, rather than living hand-to-mouth. And since there is so little left to cut (we have a pretty simple lifestyle to begin with) we will have to be creative! (Any ideas you may have would be appreciated.)

. . . fitness. To be honest, I have always HATED going to the gym. But, after noticing that I have started looking a little squishy, I decided to give it another try. And you know what? I love it! Recently the gym in our apartment complex purchased new equipment with screens that show views of national parks, so it feels like I am actually moving through the park while exercising. Needless to say, using these machines is so much fun! Another thing I think was crucial to enjoying my workouts was easing into the routine. One day in mid-February, I promised myself that I would work out once that week. Each week I tried to fit in one more workout, and by week five I was doing cardio 4x a week! Now I don't want to miss a workout- something unimaginable to me just a few months ago. I look forward to making additional changes to my workouts, and to continue challenging myself. 

. . . spirituality and God. Sometimes people misunderstand that being a Buddhist means also being an atheist. This in fact is not the case, it is just that the wisdom that the Buddha gave us in the form of the Four Noble Truths, Noble Eightfold Path, Five Moral Precepts, etc., do not require belief in God or a higher power. But that certainly doesn't mean that Buddhism dictates that someone can't or shouldn't believe. To make a very long story short (and a long post not as long :), I have thought a lot about my relationship with God, especially the fact that recently I had not included Him in my life. I have finally determined that this was because I needed to distance myself, not from God, but from how I had previously related to Him. In short, I needed an attitude adjustment, and I believe that with greater maturity and insight, a new relationship with God has started to blossom. 
*****

So that's about it- actually, I ended up writing a heck of a lot more than I thought I would! But thanks for bearing with me :) Although I abhor the fact that I am unemployed and feel that I am not contributing as much as I would like, there have been some blessings in disguise, like having the time to think about (and even act upon) other important aspects of my life. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this post, despite its self-indulgent nature. I also hope that everything is well with you- As always feel free to share your thoughts and what is going on in your life in the comments below- I would love to hear from you!   

May all beings be happy!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My Dinacharya Notebook

One tool that I think has been indispensable to my Dinacharya journey up until now has been my journal, in which I briefly record the main observations, activities, and joys of the day. Given to me by my Mom over a year ago, my journal is a 6x8 spiral notebook decorated with royal peacocks, serene lotus blossoms, and colorful flowers and butterflies. I was saving the notebook for something very special, and thought using it to record this important new endeavor would do it justice.

Here is a picture of the journal that I would like to share with you:


In the market for a nice notebook that you would like to use for a special purpose? I have compiled a few of my favorites in the Amazon widget below. Like my notebook, they are all from Punch Studio, and I love how they are so colorful, yet also practical and sturdy. If you are interested in these notebooks please use the links in the widget to navigate to Amazon.com- any purchase you make via these links would benefit me with a (very small) commission, which I would appreciate very much. Also please let me know if you have a link to Amazon.com on your blog/website, and I will try to do the same for you.


*****
May all beings be happy!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dinacharya: My practice so far

It's been almost two months since I first started my journey of paying closer attention to the day's natural rhythms, and consistently performing several of the practices recommended by the Ayurvedic guidelines of Dinacharya. So far I must say that I am pleased, since I am already experiencing the benefits.  

So far I have consistently:

Gone to bed earlier
Used the tongue scraper
Drank warm water upon waking
Practiced Abhyanga (warm oil massage)
Written in a journal
Continued morning sun salutations
Meditated

I have already made more changes than I thought I would, which surprises me because in the past positive change has been so difficult (or at least very slow) for me. As I've said before posts featuring my journey with Dinacharya will not be the major topic of this blog (of course, unless you want it to be!), but I will periodically post whatever insights I am able to make.

Thanks for reading this post. Are you also interested in Ayurveda? What attracted you to it? Do you feel that it has benefitted your life? How?

May all beings be happy!        

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Happy Birthday, BCB!

I am very happy to announce that this month is the 3rd anniversary of ByChanceBuddhism! 

I still remember the day I sat with my love, discussing what kind of blog I would like to write- and what I should call it. I will never forget his encouragement, or the clarity and determination I felt as I decided the focus -and name- of ByChanceBuddhism. 

Three years later, here we are! I would also like to thank all of you, my readers, who have been so kind as to provide so many insightful comments and support, especially over the past year. Your participation and contributions mean more to me than you know. You are among the many blessings that I have encountered whilst traveling the Buddhist path.  

As a small token of my appreciation, I would like to share this picture with you:


May you be happy as you travel along your own path, cultivating wisdom, compassion, and peace.

Thank you all so much- Here's to many more years writing BCB!

*****
May all beings be happy!  

Monday, January 7, 2013

Not again! The Dalai Lama's 18 Rules for Living: Another fake

Okay, let's cut right to the chase: You know the "Dalai Lama's 18 Rules for Living"? FAKE with a capital F. But I promise, I really don't mean to be a kill-joy or know-it-all. Being the inquisitive person I am, I try to get to the bottom of things . . .

A while ago, I viewed this YouTube video featuring "the Dalai Lama's 18 Rules for Living". They really resonated with me, and so being a fan of H.H., I wanted to share them with others here at BCB. 


However, given the epidemic of fake Buddha quotes on the internet, I erred on the side of caution and decided to first check the source of these great sayings. And BAM! to my dismay one of the first hits from googling "The Dalai Lama's 18 Rules for Living" is an article from Snopes.com, an internet urban legend and fact-check website. As it turns out, the Dalai Lama is not the source of these quotations. They are from a book written by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., called Life's Little Instruction Book: 511 Suggestions, Observations, and Reminders on How to Live a Happy and Rewarding Life.

The Snopes.com article reveals that a list of 45 of the 511 tips from the Life's Little Instruction Book was first portrayed as 'modern Japanese good luck tantra' or a 'Nepalese tantra totem' in a 1999 email chain letter. I gather that apparently since then someone cherry-picked the ones that 'sounded' like the Dalai Lama, making up a concise list to "oooo" and "ahhh" about- and share with others in emails and blog posts. Moving to the YouTube age, someone synchronized these tips with soothing music and photos of mountain scenes, smiling Tibetan children, and of course the ever-benevolent-looking Dalai Lama.  

I have found this video posted on several blogs (some of them Buddhist blogs) where the author gushes about how much each point resonated with them (like I almost did!). While it is good that some people (not me, by the way) have taken the time to post in the comments that the Dalai Lama didn't write these sayings, often all the author says is 'oh no!' - but does not update the post to inform readers of their error- and the true source of the quotations. 

I know that misattribution has always been a problem in literate societies, but things like this are starting to annoy me. In this age of the internet we do get bombarded by too much information, and we can't possibly keep track of it all. But we also know that it is SO EASY to check the accuracy of quotes like these. Not to mention, the Dalai Lama has actually said a lot of great things that could have been put into a nice little list of 'Rules for Living', but for some reason the misattributed ones were perpetuated instead. 

And then there's the hand-waving, "but it doesn't really matter who said them, as long as they help people" excuse. I agree with this in some situations, but certainly not in this one. The source of these quotations was a book, written by an author who no doubt put time and effort into writing it. In this instance misattribution is actually hurting someone, because not only is their work is being misrepresented, but they are not being given any credit for it. 

So did the person or people who took those tips from Life's Little Instruction Book mean to hurt the author? In a way, they must have known they were doing some harm, because rather than giving the author his due credit, they attributed the list of life lessons to a nebulous, 'exotic' source. However, as I'm sure the 'creators' of the chain email delighted in seeing it go to recipients around the world, the real driving force here is probably what it usually is- human ego. 

With that, I will leave you with some very wise words from Howard Wolowitz, M.Eng, the nerdy engineer character on the 'geekarific' hit show "The Big Bang Theory". Enjoy!    



*****
May all beings be happy (and at least look for truth on the internet)! :)

For a list of quotations and writings from H.H. The Dalai Lama, please check out these, from Bamboo in the Wind.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Heads up: A 100-day meditation challenge

A major part of my purpose here at BCB is to inform others of things I learn about Buddhism, Buddhist spiritual resources, and happenings on the Buddhist forefront. 

And I have exciting news!

Recently I came across an awesome post on Bodhipaksa's (who you may now be familiar with due to my posts about his exposure of fake Buddha quotes) meditation website, Wildmind, announcing the beginning of the Hit the ground sitting! the 100-day meditation challenge

The challenge: Meditate each day for 100 days
The 'rules': 
1) sit for at least five minutes 
2) rather than being from midnight to midnight, a day is the time between waking and going to bed
3) walking meditation 'counts' 

Simple, right?

And, last but not least, Bodhipaksa offers some great advice. He says that when in doubt, just remember that you are redefining yourself. He offers this affirmation- 

"I meditate everyday. It's what I do. It's just who I am."

Though he encourages acknowledging that may not be true yet, believe that it is true. With your own  diligent effort, it will be in about 3 months' time. 

So in not wanting to steal any more thunder from Bodhipaksa's great challenge, I encourage you to read the Day One post of the 100-day meditation challenge for 'rules' and inspiration. And to keep up to date with the rest of the 99+ posts, please include the links for Bodhipaksa's two main sites: bodhi tree swaying and the Wildmind Buddhist Meditation Blog in your blog list. Finally, if you would like to read (or contribute to) the discussion, please navigate the posts from the Wildmind blog.     

*****
I hope you enjoyed this post, and that it was helpful to you. Please comment if you also plan to take the 100-day challenge! (PS: Don't worry about being 'behind'- I missed the first two days as well!) 

May all beings be happy!     

Dinacharya: The basics

In my last post I discussed my desire to follow a daily routine that is in harmony with the daily cycles and rhythms of nature. I believe that Dinacharya, or the daily routine based upon Ayurvedic principles, is a great guide for cultivating such a routine.

Dinacharya is a Sanskrit word, which, like many Sanskrit words, is made up of several related parts, each with their own meaning. Here they are:

din = day or daily
cha = to walk forward
acharya = the learned teacher, walking their students forwards towards knowledge
charya = practiced wisdom through routine

Thus: Dinacharya refers to the wisdom of cultivating a daily routine where one lives each day well.*

This idea of living each day 'well' is focused upon following and being in harmony with the daily cycles. In Ayurvedic thought, there are five natural elements, including space, air, fire, water, and earth. In human beings elements are represented in three doshas, or biological energies of body and mind. These include Vata (space and air), Pitta (fire and water), and Kapha (water and earth).** 

In addition to human beings, doshas have also been assigned to specific times in the day, when each of the corresponding elements is said to dominate. Here are the times:

Vata: 2am - 6am and 2pm - 6pm
Kapha: 6am - 10am and 6pm - 10pm 
Pitta: 10am - 2pm and 10pm - 2am*** 

That's where Dinacharya comes in. The fact that certain elements dominate specific parts of the 24-hour cycle means that certain activities are better suited to specific times. For example, it is beneficial to wake and meditate in the air-dominated Vata hours before 6am, while it is best to eat our largest meal (lunch) during the 10am and 2pm Pitta time, when the fire element (and digestive fire) are strongest. 

Other emphases of the daily routine outlined by Dinacharya include: 

Before rising from bed:
Waking with a positive intention for the day
Assessing the body for any imbalances, being mindful of the body
Mind/memory exercise: Without judgement recalling the previous day's events from morning to bedtime

Arising:
Scraping the tongue with tongue scraper to remove toxins (called ama) deposited overnight
Drinking a glass of warm water (perhaps with some lemon and a little honey)
Morning ablutions: Washing face, brushing teeth, gargling
Emptying the bowels
Dry brushing the skin

Morning routine:
Light exercises such as sun salutations, yoga, walking, swimming, etc. 
Oil massage (Abhyanga): Massage the body (or at least the ears, forehead, and feet)    
Shower
Meditation/Prayer

Breakfast ~ 7am
Lunch ~ 12pm
Tea ~ 4pm
Dinner ~ 6-7pm

The time between 10am and 2pm is the best time for productive work, after 2pm for creativity, and after 6pm for dinner/light exercise/relaxation/intimacy. 

Another meditation session can be done before dinner, around twilight/sunset.

Spend the evening relaxing and free from major stimulation. 

Retire between 10 and 11pm. 

*****
So how will all this relate to me, someone who lacks discipline, has a hard time keeping a schedule, and feels perpetually out-of-whack? Well, I am hoping that by being mindful of these natural cycles, I can slowly allow myself to become in tune with them once again. My intention is that this process is a gentle, non-judgmental one, as I allow myself to experience the joy of discovering the rhythms of nature, instead of fighting against them. I am excited about this new adventure, but unlike the past, not in a frenzied, impatient way, but with soft, open-minded anticipation. 

As of now, I have only been able to do a small fraction of what is outlined above, but that's okay. Like I've said before, I've been out of sync for such a long time, so it is only natural that it would take some time to get back into the rhythm of things. Although I am instinctively drawn to each of the practices recommended by Dinacharya, I also have to test each one out, to make sure the sequence, timing, and the activity itself is right for me. 

Of course my blog here at BCB will not focus on this process, but I will keep you updated now and then. As always, I look forward to your comments about what you think of the ideas in this post, and welcome any insight or experience you may have had.

May all beings be happy!

*****   

 *Note: This definition was provided by the Dinacharya Institute's website. The Dinacharya Institute is a school dedicated to teaching students how to embrace and cultivate this ancient daily routine in our modern world, and is located in New York, NY. 

**This information was obtained from the Ayurveda 101 page from the Eat.Taste.Heal website, which is dedicated to teaching people to use Ayurvedic principles and diet to better their lives.

*** Information about the times and recommended activities outlined by Dinacharya was obtained from the Ayurveda Place website, which has a blog dedicated to informing people about Ayurveda, and also sells a variety of Ayurvedic products. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Dinacharya: becoming in tune with life's rhythms

I generally don't make New Year's resolutions, and seeing that I am slowly weening myself of my own perfectionist tendencies, perhaps making one is not the best idea anyway. Sure, I want the typical things, i.e. to be better about writing cards and letters, remembering people's birthdays, decluttering, losing weight, and to have super-toned arms. But even if I were the resolution-making type, I feel that items like these are just distracting from the bigger picture- and from what I really want. 

What I want is simple, yet also profound, intriguing- and potentially quite challenging. 

I want to become more in tune with life, and the rhythms that help make us who we are. 

For so many years I have juggled various obligations- and been a slave to many masters, mainly the clock, the calendar, coursework, exams, labwork, my dissertation, and the expectations of others. The result is that although I may have accomplished a lot academically, years of ignoring and pushing aside the natural rhythms of life has left me feeling unsettled. I feel that for the first time in a long time, the current lull of activity in my life has given me the opportunity to focus on these rhythms, and to dedicate myself to becoming in tune with them. 

Although my efforts to cultivate mindfulness would probably count as 'tuning in', they have been sporadic, and more focused on my own actions, rather than how they fit into the bigger picture. As someone interested in Ayurveda (the ancient Hindu system of traditional medicine), I have time and again come across the concept of Dinacharya, or recommended daily routine. I won't get into all the details here, but I will just say that I am impressed with the way Ayurveda determines how to treat and nourish the whole person, based upon carefully determined characteristics of an individual. What's more, is through the recommended daily/weekly actions of Dinacharya, one learns to be in tune with one's own body- and the natural world around us.

Why is this so important to me? I feel that in today's fast paced, modern world, we are vulnerable not only to stress and exhaustion, but to losing sight of who we are- and where we fit within the backdrop of the natural universe. And let's be honest, despite all the gizmos, gadgets, and apps we humans have invented to entertain and comfort ourselves, the serenity of a peaceful natural setting outmatches our "smart" phone every time.  

What does all this have with Buddhism? To put it simply, I think that in becoming aware of natural phenomena outside the context of ourselves will be a great endeavor in cultivating mindfulness, not only of the natural world, but in how we are connected to it. This type of wisdom is something I believe would have strong and lasting effects on the physical, emotional, and mental health of sentient beings- and perhaps even on the earth's environment.    

So, as far as 'tuning in' I am viewing this as a very long-term goal. After all, years (maybe decades) of being 'tuned out' will certainly take some undoing. But it is not a race. I know it will be hard to switch gears- thinking about he turning of the earth, the changing of the seasons, the phases of the moon- it might all sound very remote. But we must never forget that these things are part of who we are- things we think we have abandoned and forgotten. But we can get back in touch with them, even on a very simple level, if we just take the time to watch and listen. 

And that's just what I intend to do. 

*****
What did you think about the ideas presented in this post? Do you think it is possible to reconnect with the natural rhythms of life, especially after being 'tuned out' so long? Is it important to even try? How do you think the above relates to Buddhism, if at all? 

"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished" ~ Lao Tzu

May all beings be happy!