Sunday, August 7, 2011

What to do about Suffering (and Demon Bunnies)

"There is suffering in life. So how do we detach ourselves from suffering or not follow suffering into its depths?" That was a question recently posed to me by someone trying to understand the Fourth Noble Truth, which says, "There is suffering." The Fourth Noble Truth is sometimes translated as "Life is suffering," but I think that must be a terrible translation since I've never heard a true Buddhist teach anything like the notion that all we have is misery and pain in life. In fact, Buddhist philosophy strikes me as exceedingly able to teach us how to enjoy and appreciate life, while also diving head first into the painful truths that we must face in order to live free from ignorance. This quality of going straight into the painful stuff with no Kool-Aid to be drunk, is what attracted me to Buddhism in the first place, and it is also my answer to the question posed above.

Friday, August 5, 2011

What Happens when a Jedi Gets Nervous?

Have you ever had a big presentation to deliver and as you were getting ready to stand up, you suddenly thought you might actually pass out? The heart starts pounding, you get tunnel vision, your thoughts of terrifying embarrassment sound like they're being broadcast on the PA system, and someone just CRANKED THE VOLUME TO 11!!! No matter how much I practice public speaking, I can never shake the nervousness that comes up, whether before a big presentation or right before I ask a question at a public forum on how to reduce corruption in the Republic of Kerplunkistan.

This happened to me on the other day when I had to give a presentation to my organization's board of directors. I knew I was about to be introduced. My brain got word down to my heart and then to the rest of my body. Sudden dizziness, a cold sweat, deafening thoughts about impossibly horrible and embarrassing scenarios, like how I could become that guy who passed out during a board meeting.