Sunday, February 28, 2010

Words for Taking Refuge

The following are some basic recitations for taking refuge in the Three Jewels, from several different traditions listed on Wikipedia and View on Buddhism

Sanskrit version:
Buddhaṃ śaraṇaṃ gacchāmi. (I take refuge in the Buddha.)
Dharmaṃ śaraṇaṃ gacchāmi. (I take refuge in the Dharma.)
Saṃghaṃ śaraṇaṃ gacchāmi. (I take refuge in the Sangha.)

Pali (Mahayana) version.
Buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi. (to the Buddha for refuge I go)
Dhammaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi. (to the Dharma for refuge I go)
Saṅghaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi. (to the Sangha for refuge I go)
Dutiyampi buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi. (For the second time ... (repeated for each of the three))Tatiyampi buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi. (For the third time ... (repeated for each of the three))

A Tibetan (Mahāyāna, Vajrayāna) version:
Until I am enlightened,
I go for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
Through the virtue I create by practising giving and the other perfections,
may I become a Buddha to benefit all sentient beings.
(This is the closest version to the one I recited)
Sangye Cho dang Tsok kyi chog nam la
Jang Chub bar du dag gi jin gyat su chi
Dag gi jin so yi pe tsog nam ki
Dro la pen Chir Sangye drub par shok

Of course, the above words can just be uttered in English, or in any language for that matter. In my opinion, it is the meaning, purpose, and commitment that are important.  

May all beings be happy!

How do I become a Buddhist?

Well, if you're like me, I was a Buddhist before I realized it, and *by chance* discovered Buddhist philosophy and beliefs. But perhaps you came across Buddhism in a different way, knew about it intellectually, but did not feel it was relevant to your life until something changed.

The first thing to do is to understand what the Buddha taught, and the very basic concepts of Buddhism. Buddhism is in essence not a dogmatic religion; people who became followers of the Buddha and his teachings were encouraged to ask questions and challenge ideas; a tradition that still continues today. So think about what you currently know about Buddhism and what about it resonates with you, as well as what does not. Be honest with yourself and consider carefully how you feel, the questions you have, and take your time. Only after all that make your decision. During the Buddha's lifetime, he was adamant that people should follow Buddhist principles as a result of understanding and conviction.

If you feel that your sense of commitment is firm, then the next step is to take refuge in the Three Jewels, the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha

This can take place during a formal ceremony with the guidance of a monk, experienced and trusted layperson, or simply said in front of a picture or statue of the Buddha. Personally, I have never had a formal ceremony, and simply stated that I was taking refuge aloud to myself, with an image of the Buddha in my mind's eye. Pretty simple and informal, yet significant. For some people it is important to make a formal, witnessed commitment, in which case an ordained member of the sangha should be consulted. 

As for me, I am set for now, but do plan on having an official ceremony in the future. I will let you know if I do, and how it goes! 

There are some differences in common refuge wordings according to different traditions. I have posted some which I found on Wikipedia, as well as View on Buddhism.

The next step is to take some vows to guide us in living beneficial lives. The purpose of this is to help us to commit to the path we have chosen by taking part in beneficial behavior.

Also known as the Five Moral Precepts, these are five basic vows.
  1. Refrain from harming living creatures (killing).
  2. Refrain from taking that which is not given.
  3. Refrain from sexual misconduct.
  4. Refrain from false speech.
  5. Refrain from use of intoxicants which lead to loss of mindfulness.
Was this post helpful to you? Please post any personal advice and experiences about taking refuge in the comments below. 

May all beings be happy!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Three Jewels

Also called the Three Treasures, the Three Refuges, or the Triple Gem, these are, most simply put, what Buddhists take refuge in and look to for guidance. The Three Jewels are the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

Each of these words has a variety of meanings, but the basic definitions are:
The Buddha: The historical or Shakyamuni Buddha (although this can also mean a being who has fully realized their Buddha-nature, who is enlightened)
The Dharma: The teachings of the Buddha, which includes knowing them and acting upon them with appropriate behavior.
The Sangha: 'The community', which can refer to monks and nuns, all enlightened beings, and all practicing Buddhists.

Not only do Buddhists look to the Three Jewels for guidance, but they may also 'take refuge' in them.

Here is a simple way in which a Buddhist may take refuge, which is the way of Theravada Buddhists:
I go for refuge in the Buddha.
I go for refuge in the Dharma.
I go for refuge in the Sangha.
(also in the Pali language)

For more common refuge vows, please see this post about taking refuge. Also, please see my post 'How do I become a Buddhist?'

May all beings be happy!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Loving 43Things

I know that 43Things is not exactly a new website, but up until now I hadn't looked at it. I am really happy I did, and to my amazement I have come up with 41 things that I would like to do!! I have shared some of these here on ByChanceBuddhism, but this is an extensive list. Most of the things are just small ways in which I would like to improve my life and those around me, with a few major goals, like 'Attend a Buddhist seminary school' and 'Learn Tamil'. At first I thought coming up with such a list would be overwhelming, but it actually has been really empowering. I look at the things on my list and say, 'Wow, look at all these cool goals!'. Plus, another nice thing about the site is that people can cheer your goals and accomplishments, as you can theirs. An all around good thing.

For my full list of 'Things' please see the list on the sidebar of this blog.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Buddhist Temple: One Million Bottles of Beer on the Wall!

Okay, last post for the day- With all the serious stuff today, I thought it was time for something fun.

A few days ago, I came across this awesome article about a Buddhist temple in Thailand- built entirely of beer bottles!!!

I have linked to two articles, one with a full article about the temple, the other from, which has more images, two of which can be seen below.

Enjoy the beauty of trash to treasure!!



Not Wasting Time on the Internet

Two weekends ago, I set up my own little mini-retreat away from social networking websites and media in general, including internet, phone and TV. And it was great! But although I have started better habits while using the web (closing tabs I am done with, giving myself a limit to how long I spend on facebook, deleting games from my facebook profile), I have inevitably reverted back to several of my old, bad browsing habits.

But this post is not about beating myself up about that- I have to give myself more time if I really want to change! I was going to make a list of things to do to help avoid wasting time surfing the web, and yes, checking twitter. But upon doing a quick search of how to articles on the topic, I found this great list that someone on 43Things came up with. It is much better than anything I could come up with, and by finding it, hey, I saved some time writing this post!!

Here are the tips- Enjoy!:
1. No Internet games. None. There are better things to do with your time!!

2. Plan your online time. I often go online for legitimate reasons and end up using that as an excuse to waste time. If you really do need to use the Internet for work, research or communication reasons, write a short list of the things you need to do (e.g. reply to an email, look up a word, check the news) and stick to it.

3. Set a limit. If you tend to spend a lot of time on Facebook or MySpace, it helps to set yourself a time limit for those sites. A good amount is ten minutes. Write a Post-It note that says something like “Facebook 10-minute limit” and stick it to the side of your monitor so you can see it whenever you go
on the computer. (Facebook makes me really neurotic and inefficient, so I deleted mine.)

4. Disconnect the Internet. If you really have a hard time staying offline, sever your connection when you’re done working, whether you have a cable or Wi-Fi. The next time you try to use the Internet, taking the time to reconnect will make you think twice about whether you actually need to.

My motivation: Making Sure it Stays Where it Should

As I have stated in my About and Blog Details sections, I really wanted to start this blog because of my desire to help others discover Buddhism, and also to learn about myself. As someone new to Buddhism, I initially felt it was difficult to get information about certain things, from social issues such as gender and ethics; sometimes even basic concepts. I wanted to help ease that gap that a Western newcomer as myself might feel, and provide some kind of link, however small, to helping people access what they want to know about Buddhism.

I discussed the idea of starting this blog with my boyfriend, and he was more than encouraging. I began writing, and just dove into it. I am still astounded that my passion has not waned, even though I have few visitors and even fewer followers (many thanks to them, though!!). I have so many ideas, and so many topics I want to write about. I have tried blogging before, and failed miserably simply because I wasn't passionate enough about the topic. Now I am, and it feels great!

To tell the truth, given how burnt out I have been feeling about my dissertation work, writing here is often much more gratifying (There, I said it!). That doesn't mean I think my work has no value, or that I can slack off doing it, but this just how I feel.

It seems that every time I sit down in front of my computer, all kinds of ideas of what to write about Buddhism flood into my head, and I have the almost irresistible urge to write a new post. This leaves me to ponder if I should try to keep better tabs on separating blogging and dissertation writing/labwork, especially because it has occurred to me that this zeal could simply be another form of procrastination. And that's not what I want this great pursuit to become. So I will keep posting, of course, but also do my best to live in the present moment while I am at work.

"Actions motivated by attachment, aversion, or ignorance, regardless of any external appearances, are simply not Buddhist practices." Lorne Ladner

"I wish things were different"

We all say this, and fantasize how things would be once we got our dream job, house, mate, car, etc. But we also know the truth of the matter; that once we get to that next place in life when we have ______, things are still pretty much the same. 

Unfortunately, and despite this intellectual understanding, "I wish things were different" recently has seemed to have become my personal mantra. As a grad student, I watch others my age buy houses and cars, go on vacations and afford neat gadgets, making me long for the day when I can have a 'real' job, with a 'real' salary and 'real' work hours. I wish that my dear boyfriend could stay near me as he pursues his post-doc, and long for the safety and security married and family life seems to bring. As I said, I know that all this thinking is just fantasy, but it is so easy to get caught up. It was only in a conversation with my roomate that I seem to have awakened a little.

We were talking about being grad students, basically what I mentioned above, without the family stuff. But we also realized that we don't live a bad life, and that we have a lot of things to be grateful for. We don't have to worry about the responsibility that comes with having a house, mortgages, etc. and don't have to take care of anyone but ourselves. What's more, we both decided that you can't go on living life just looking forward to the next 'stage'. Doing that is bound to set yourself up for regret, because before you know it, this life will be over, and you'll realize that you never enjoyed the present moment, and just the joy of being alive.

We may be unhappy with our overall circumstances, but the life we are leading is still a life, and that is something of utmost value.
"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." Albert Einstein

"Go ahead, you deserve it!"

Normally I cringe at statements like these, because in my opinion we really only deserve the things we work hard for. Besides, there is much more satisfaction in working hard towards something and achieving/obtaining it, rather than just having it given to you. 

However, to moderate my point of view, there are things we all deserve in life, and that is to allow ourselves to be happy. Whereas circumstances may often be less-that-ideal, the opportunity to work towards happiness is something we owe ourselves. 

But before I get on my high horse, I better ensure I practice what I preach!!\ I have been struggling with being burnt out at my job, tired all the time, and growing progressively more emotionally withdrawn. I didn't sleep very well last night, and I kept thinking of all the things I want to do to improve my life but never seem to have the time or energy for. These are things I have even noted on this blog, like meditation, yoga, regular exercise, reading, writing, cooking fresh and wholesome food, and keeping my living space clean and uncluttered. 


As I said that to myself, I realized that this type of deserving was not the same as feeling you 'deserve' a new car, handbag, or promotion, and that the emphasis was different. It was not focused on the final outcome or instant gratification, but instead on working towards something important. So I have broadened my perspective a little bit, it is not just only deserving the things we work hard for, but deserving to work hard for the things that matter.

So I vow to do just that, whatever it takes. I know it will be hard, but as Theodore Roosevelt noted,
"Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty... I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well." Des Moines, Iowa November 4, 1910

May all beings be happy!

Linked Goodreads to my Blog!!

For a while now I have wanted to embed a widget that shows what I am currently reading, and with a little maneuvering I have done just that :)

Yesterday I came across the website Goodreads ( which is a type of networking tool for avid readers such as myself. Members can display the books they have read, are currently reading or want to read, and accompany the books listed on their virtual bookshelves with ratings and reviews. Also, members can indicate if they own each book they have read, and even arrange for a book swap with someone else. Pretty neat!

At first I had a little trouble linking Goodreads to Blogger, but when I looked it up, I easily found the following useful presentation on Slideshare. The demo presentation is for the most part accurate, except that the 'widget' link is now located on the left hand side of the 'my books' page. Also know that the file name they give in the demo is just an example- you can choose any file name that is appropriate to your blog, etc. NOTE: This widget does not work on Wordpress or LiveJournal blogs. Finally, please keep in mind that the default settings for your Goodreads account somehow display your location, so make sure you take a look at your account settings to ensure greater privacy, if that is what you wish.

You can now see books I am currently reading in the sidebar of ByChanceBuddhism, so check it out!!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Winter Afternoon Haiku

Sunshine, bright and warm
streams onto my strolling frame-
A joyful walk home.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Turn Off the TV!!!!

Okay, so we know that watching too much TV is not good for us. But recently I came across a great little book called The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People, by David Niven, Ph.D., 2000.

What's interesting about this particular book is that each 'secret' is supported by psychological evidence, and which is followed by an excerpt from a cited study.

One of my favorite secrets was "Turn off the TV", which suggests asking ourselves 'Is this something I want to see?' and only turning it on when there is something specific you wish to watch.  Use your newly liberated hours to spend time with loved ones, do something you enjoy, or reserve quiet time to yourself.

"Without TV, you can do something actively fun instead of passively distracting."

As for the clinical anecdote, Wu (1998) found that, "Watching too much TV can triple our hunger for more possessions, while reducing our personal contentment by about 5 percent for every hour a day we watch."

We thank the book's author, David Niven, and the people who carried out studies on this topic, for giving us such insight. But of course, deep down we all know our time is better spent than flipping aimlessly through space.
Gatha for Daily Life: Mind and television receive what I choose. I select well-being and nourish joy.
(From 201 Little Buddhist Reminders: Gathas for Your Daily Life)

How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life

As my sense of burnout and fear has come to a head, I was very fortunate to find this book at the local library. The full title is as follows,

How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life: Opening your Heart to Confidence, Intimacy, and Joy, by Susan Piver. First Edition, April, 2007.

In my opinion Susan Piver is a wonderful author- I have not read a book written with her clarity, empathy, and precision in a long time. I am not going to go into an exhaustive summary of the book, but just wanted to point out several gems I discovered while reading.

The first thing that intrigued me was the very strong connection Susan makes between Fear and the root sufferings of Attachment (which she calls Passion), Anger and Ignorance. She outlines what causes and dissolves fear, and provides antidotes to the root sufferings, which she describes as 'mistaken reactions' to fear. She then links examining and dissolving our fears to meditation, which she also describes in an excellent manner. I especially enjoyed her explanations of Maitri (loving-kindness, Chapter 5) and Shamatha (breath awareness, Chapter 3) meditation, and her instruction to 'dedicate the merit' of our meditation practice (Chapter 3). It really is beautifully done.

Some of my favorite passages:
"Each of us is born seeking a meaningful life. We have a natural ability to sense what is significant, live in peace, and surround ourselves with love." (page 1)
"So in love, there is also great capability. When you extend this love toward yourself, you allow for the subtle unfolding of your own vulnerability, you can develop friendliness toward yourself, stop living your life as an ongoing self-improvement project, and just relax." (page 90)
From Susan's teacher, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, "The first thing you need to do when presenting a spiritual teaching is to create confidence in the mind of the person studying it." (page 129)

I don't know if she'll ever read this, but I thank Susan Piver for her insightful, clearly written words, rich with compassion and wisdom.

A Morning Haiku

What a gorgeous day; sunny with the trees frosted over!! The amazing scene inspired me to think of this Haiku:

Trees icy frosted
All is a white silhouette
Beautiful morning!

May all beings have at least one peaceful moment today.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Beautiful Mealtime Blessing

For a Mindful meal, this is a lovely mealtime blessing.

Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space
combine to make this food.
Numberless beings gave their lives
and labors so that we may eat.
May we be nourished
so that we may nourish life.

May all beings find Happiness!!

For the full article, please click here.

Grad Life and Burnout

As I may have mentioned, I am a graduate student. My field is in the sciences, and I love my work, or, at least I used to. I had great interest in my various projects, and a great love of learning. But now every morning I wake up with a fatigue that I just can't shake, with a constant feeling of being trapped and overwhelmed.

So, what's wrong? Is it my field of study? My adviser? My labmates? My personal life? No, no, no . . . and no! "So, what is my problem when other people have real issues to deal with in their lives?", I wondered. After a quick Google search of 'Graduate students and depression' I got my answer from the grad school site at UBC. I am not clinically depressed but I somehow seemed to have burnt myself out.

The 'warning signs' of burnout were listed as follows:
* Loss of interest in or questioning the meaning of your research
* Chronic fatigue - exhaustion, a sense of being physically run down
* Anger at those making demands
* Cynicism, negativity, and irritability
* A sense of being besieged
* Feelings of helplessness

"Well, that's about it," I thought. And it happens a lot, not only to graduate students, but to everyone. What's more, it seemed to have happened gradually, without me noticing it- I just started feeling worse and worse, but for no specific reason. One thing is that at least I know what's going on, and I can focus on bringing back all the other things in my life that made me happy, like dance, exercise, hiking and spending time with friends. It was a wake-up call to return to a more balanced life, and for that I am grateful.

Have you experienced burnout in an area of your life? How did/are you coping with it? Did spiritual practice help?

May all beings be happy!

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Prayer Wheel

In my search for useful information about the mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum", I came across the website Dharma Haven, which hosts a wealth of information about Tibetan Buddhist culture, practices, wisdom, and healing.

In relation to the sacred mantra, the website introduced the Tibetan prayer wheel very cleverly as "Spiritual Technology from Tibet". What a wonderful description for these simple but effective spiritual tools!

The article is really interesting, since it describes not only the widely familiar hand-held prayer wheel, but also ones driven naturally by wind and running water! The article also elaborates on modern versions of the prayer wheel, such as ones powered by electricity, or digital versions that can be downloaded to a computer.

A truly neat and informative article. Enjoy!

May all beings be happy!

Om Mani Padme Hum

Or perhaps I should say "Om Ma Ni Pad Me Hum". Translated as "Behold the Jewel of the Lotus", this mantra is actually divided up into its six syllables, each of which represent their own perfection and samsaric realm, and have their own symbolism. Given its deep meanings and purifying properties, Om Mani Padme Hum is arguably one of the most significant mantras of the Buddhist teachings.

Because of the quality and amount of information available, I have linked the background of Om Mani Padme Hum to the Wikipedia article, which provides a beautiful explanation of the syllables, pronunciations, and interpretations of several prominent Buddhists.

I personally enjoy the interpretation of HH the 14th Dalai Lama . . .
"Thus the six syllables, om mani padme hum, mean that in dependence on the practice of a path which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech, and mind into the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha"

And that of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, from which I have listed the following two quotations:
"The mantra Om Mani Päme Hum is easy to say yet quite powerful, because it contains the essence of the entire teaching. When you say the first syllable Om it is blessed to help you achieve perfection in the practice of generosity, Ma helps perfect the practice of pure ethics, and Ni helps achieve perfection in the practice of tolerance and patience. Pä, the fourth syllable, helps to achieve perfection of perseverance, Me helps achieve perfection in the practice of concentration, and the final sixth syllable Hum helps achieve perfection in the practice of wisdom."

"So in this way recitation of the mantra helps achieve perfection in the six practices from generosity to wisdom. The path of these six perfections is the path walked by all the Buddhas of the three times. What could then be more meaningful than to say the mantra and accomplish the six perfections?"

In my personal life, I have found this powerful mantra indispensable during meditation and to cultivate patience. 

For further reading, a different perspective, and an opportunity to hear the mantra, check out this article from Dharma-haven.

Did you enjoy this article? Did you find it helpful? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

May all beings be happy!

My Posting Philosophy

Better late than never, right? Well, maybe not, but I thought it would be useful to post something about what I aim to accomplish in my posts.

My main objective for this blog is to share my journey of learning about Buddhism with others. I also want to make sure that the resources I use are indicated so that readers can benefit from this information as well. That is why as often as possible, I will try to link my posts to sources that might be a little off the beaten path of the information superhighway. I love Wikipedia, but since everyone readily utilizes this great tool, I felt that part of my role was to help people looking for information about Buddhism branch out a little. In the rare instances where I do link to Wikipedia, I do so for abstract and/or complex definitions or concepts, just because they are usually so well-explained. 

So happy reading, I hope this blog meets your expectations in finding useful information!!

Not Using the Internet: A Summary

My main conclusion: This little mini retreat from online-technology has taught me to appreciate- and be cautious of it. In not being able to use social networking sites, email and other online services, I have become more mindful of how these technologies should be used.

The Blessings:
Staying in touch: Although not constantly checking facebook was a relief, I found myself wondering how family members and close friends were doing. I acknowledged the fact that if I had stayed offline longer, I would have felt out of touch, and after a longer period of time, a little lonely and isolated.

Complete tasks quickly and efficiently: This is one of the main joys of using the internet- making things simple!! Check your bank account, email a friend, send an attachment, check the daily news, look up a recipe, collaborate on a project; all these things we are now able to do in minutes, even seconds, where in the past, many of these activities would take at least an hour to complete. We should all be thankful for such helpful technology, as it allows us to spend more time with our family, loved ones, and on our own self improvement . . . right?

Sharing and communicating ideas: Sites like twitter, blogger, wordpress, and other such forums are a great way to share ideas and ask questions with both like-minded (and not like-minded) individuals. The world has grown exponentially smaller since the www revolution, and will continue to do so. Being privy to such a free exchange of ideas is an unstoppable force, even in the face of tyranny. We have recently seen young people in Iran use technology in their struggle to become part of a free nation. All of us, free or struggling, should rejoice in this fact.  

What we can avoid:
Using the internet as a distraction from an unpleasant/boring task, or worse, from daily life: I have never been a fan of online games, and it is for this reason. Sure, play a game of solitaire, sudoku, or even online chess for mental stimulation, but I see a big problem with having one's face to the screen for hours, as life - and it's many opportunities- pass by.

Ditto: But this time in reference to social networking sites, and yes, twitter. I praised them above, but they are truly double-edged swords. Sites like facebook and myspace are addictive in their instant gratification of our desire to know "what's new?". We should be vigilant of this, and moreover be mindful in our use of these online social tools.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Mini-Retreat #1 and Beyond: A guide

I just posted a general outline of what I plan to do during my little personal mini-retreat this weekend. Earlier today, I read a beautiful article by Venerable Thubten Chodron about daily practice. I think this serves as a highly beneficial guide, both for the next two days and beyond. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did!

Mini-retreat#1: How to spend my day

Sleeping and watching TV. No, just kidding :). As you may have read in my previous post, I have sworn off TV and internet for the weekend, in order to reconnect with myself, and just to experience breathing, life.

I wanted to give some idea of what I would be doing, so here it is: (Take note that this is not a schedule, but a list of general activities.)

Wake up mindfully, breathe!!
Drink tea
Read spiritual books, take notes
Reduce clutter
Practice yoga
Write thoughts, ideas, emotions
Look out the window, observe
Learn and recite mantras
Take a walk

Notice the simplicity of each of these activities. If I unplug myself from technology, will I have fewer distractions preventing me from doing- and experiencing- the item at hand? Stay tuned! :)

Mini-retreat #1: Stress, Mindfulness and Technology

Okay, so in my last post I said that I was going to use this coming weekend to go on a little personal mini-retreat. I talked mostly about technology, how my generation was there to witness an explosion of innovation, and stated my question of how our access to technology may affect our practice and levels of mindfulness.

But I would like to add to that. Another reason for my mini-retreat is to determine the roots of stress, anxiety, and insecurity. And no, I am not going to duck under the covers and hide, but use my time this weekend to see what it feels like to just experience, in a spiritual and mindful way. 

Apart from 'unplugging' myself from technology, meaning TV, iTunes, phone (although I will still receive incoming calls) and dun, dun DUN . . . the internet, I hope to reconnect myself with me, my loved ones, and all sentient beings. Sounds new-age-y and deep, maybe a little cheesy, but I think that temporarily unplugging from technology and reconnecting with what really matters go hand in hand.

I know that doing this will not give me all the answers, but I hope it will help shed light on what triggers the disconnect between our minds and hearts. Moreover, I would like to delve into what distracts us from getting to know our minds and our true selves- and try to bridge that gap.

Given that I have banned myself from using my laptop this weekend, I will keep a notebook of what I experience, so I can share it with you! Stay tuned . . .

Practice and Technology

I think that taking an occasional break from modern technology is helpful to living a mindful and meaningful life. And yes, I state this while typing on my laptop, my ipod touch next to me so I can check facebook and twitter at a moments notice. As a person who grew up in the 80's, I am very grateful for the technology we have today- Terabytes of information at our fingertips, faraway friends just an email or status update away. In today's America, gone are the days of researching a book report by leafing through a dusty (and outdated) stack of encyclopedias. Gone are the days of waiting months for something ordered to arrive; will have it to you within a week. And, most happily, gone are the days of wondering what happened to that great friend you had in elementary school- just look them up on facebook or the online white pages.

In fact, my boyfriend and I discussed this, and we both marveled at the unique position of our generation. We grew up during the onset of a great crescendo of innovation; we had video games and TV, used calculators, and knew at least a family or two who owned a personal computer. But we still had to write letters, look through the phone book, and yes, pour over through those dusty encyclopedias. The birth of the internet as we know it came during our teen and preteen years, with things like instant messenger becoming mainstream in our late teens and college- it was an exciting time. And what's more is that we grew up with this stuff, so that we knew how our parents kicked it 'old school', yet also weren't afraid of using new technology. Now we look back at how far everything has come, even from the beginning of this millennium- it really is amazing. The supernova of technology is in full swing, and we were there to witness and grow with it.

But yes, there is always a 'but' :) I don't have to go into the disadvantages of technology; hackers, ID theft, child pornography, and obscene chat rooms. My question is "How does technology affect Buddhist practice?". I certainly do not have a full answer to this question, and probably won't for some time. But I do hope to elaborate on aspects of technology that are beneficial/not beneficial to practice, from the perspective of a lay person like myself. I will first start out with a personal mini-retreat this weekend, where I will exclude myself from using my television, laptop, itouch, and of course, websites such as twitter, facebook and blogger. Sure, it's not like this kind of thing hasn't been done before, but the point is, I want to see for myself.

My major question for this mini-retreat: "How does our access to technology affect Mindfulness?"