Wednesday, February 29, 2012

An 'extra' day, another decision (or two)

Well, I guess we won't see February 29th for another four years, which is how long we'll have to wait for an 'extra' day. 

Today the weather on the east coast was pretty dreary, and so I can't say that I spent this 'special' day as I would have preferred- on a leisurely walk or exploring a new park. 

But I did make a decision- actually two. In life there are situations that we do not enjoy, but somehow have to bear. However, there is a difference between just gritting our teeth and letting an unpleasant situation take over our lives. Last night I was really upset about a major snag in getting my dissertation deposited, due to a situation beyond my control. I was reminded by my husband that it might not happen when I want it to (now!), but it'll happen. Up to this point my obligations have been met, and so now is a great time to finally let go, calm down, and give myself permission to think about something else. 

And he's right. We can develop attachments to situations, even if they are unpleasant- sometimes especially so. As strange as this is, when we step back to view our obsession, we realize that we were ensnared by self-centered thinking. As per my own experience, viewing adverse circumstances this way can quickly snowball into feelings of resentment and anger- even when the situation I am reacting to has been resolved.

The Buddha taught that attachment and the delusion that we are a separate entity with control over the world around us are a great source of suffering. Only by correcting this delusion and eliminating our self-centered desire for things to be just as we please can we face life's adversity with courage and grace.

I have decided: 1) However unpleasant a situation, I will deal with it as best I can. The circumstance will eventually pass and doesn't define me. 2) The minute an unpleasant situation is resolved is the time to let it go. I think that choosing important goals and working towards them a little bit each day might also serve as a distraction to prevent any adverse situation taking over my life.

Of course making these types of decisions is easier than becoming ever-mindful of them, but refusing to be jerked around by attachment and delusion is another step to living a happy, authentic, and fearless life.

Can you relate to this post? What is your strategy of dealing with unpleasant situations?

May all beings be happy!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Losar Tashi Delek!

Since moving to the east coast, I have only recently been involved in a local sangha, or Buddhist community. Soon after beginning my journey along the Buddhist path four and a half years ago, I wanted to learn about and participate in Buddhist festivals. Although I have learned more about Buddhist festivals since then, I have participated in very few. But despite not really belonging to a community to celebrate with, this year I am trying to at least observe and acknowledge Buddhist festivals from various traditions. 

For example, today is Losar, also known as Tibetan New Year. This is a time of year is very important to Buddhists in Tibet, where the effects of any action (good or bad) is said to be multiplied 100,000 times. This belief means that prayer and spiritual practice become even more important than usual, and therefore play a central role in Losar activities. From what I've read there are also many different festivals during Losar, some of which date back to the pre-Buddhist 'Bon' religion. Tibetans also watch and participate in numerous folk activities, such as wrestling, horse racing, and Tibetan drama (read more here and here).

Being thousands of miles from what is no doubt a vibrant and amazing event, I decided to commemorate this Losar by hanging Tibetan prayer flags. These colorful flags inscribed with blessings and prayers are traditionally attached to the tops of poles, where the wind is believed to carry blessings on the flags promoting peace, strength, compassion, and wisdom to sentient beings far and wide. Blessings continue to be released from the flags as they decay and are torn apart by the wind.  (Read more from Wikipedia)

Tibetan prayer flags are placed on poles and in doorways during auspicious and celebratory days, such as birthdays and festivals. Tibetan prayer flags are also traditionally replaced during Losar with new ones, another reason for me to hang ours in the doorway of our apartment! I hope you enjoy the photo I've added below.

Losar Tashi Delek! May all beings be happy!