Sunday, January 29, 2012

Practicing Happiness

One thing I have heard a few times on Krista Tippet's show on NPR called On Being is that happiness is a practice. This idea inspires me and me gives me hope that we can all be happy. It also highlights the fact that our society is confused about how we achieve happiness. We are silly to think we can find happiness without practicing it, as if you could get in shape without exercising.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama says that all beings want to be happy and that this is good. However, there is some confusion in our society about whether the pursuit of happiness is indeed a noble thing. Some of the confusion stems from the notion that seeking happiness for yourself is selfish. Once we get past this hang-up, we often encounter even greater confusion about how to seek happiness. 
In this blog post I want to throw out a few ideas about what practicing happiness might look like.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Meditator Gets Hoodwinked by Religion

I recently tried to set up an introduction to meditation during lunch hour at my work. I found myself contemplating how religion and meditation are related because I had to assure people that this was not a religious thing. Of course, there doesn't have to be anything religious about meditation, but people tend to worry that they are about to get hoodwinked.

At the end of the day, all forms of meditation have origins in the world's wisdom traditions or religions. If you haven't signed up for membership in one of the world's religions, don't worry! You don't have to join a religion to get something out of meditation, but allow me to expound on the relationship I see between meditation and religion.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The 8th Level of Consciousness

In Buddhist psychology there are 8 levels of consciousness. The first 6 levels include the 5 senses, plus the mind that processes the senses. The 7th level processes what to do about all this sensory input and this is where the ego strives to preserve all the goodies for the perceived self.

The 8th level of consciousness is something that exists before thoughts. It is the sense of "being" before the thoughts and interpretations come in. It is the level at which we experience alaya or basic goodness. This is "alaya," which means "abode" as in "Him-ALAYA," the abode of snow; so alaya
is referred to like a home base in the mind, free from discursive thought.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Are Thoughts Just Mental Panic Attacks?

I was wondering where my mental storylines come from, which in effect is asking the same question as, "where do my thoughts come from?"

When I get into an argument with my partner, which is then followed by a lot of storytelling in my mind, I wonder who or what is making up those stories. Is it a soul? That seem ridiculous! So who the hell, what the hell, is making up all of those stories?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mind Like Sail, Thoughts Like Wind

While the fruition of meditation is not something to be measured, it can be helpful to look back and see how far you've come.

Learning to meditate is like becoming the skipper of a sailboat. The boat represents your life. The hull is like your body that allows you to move around and do things. The winds are like your thoughts that fill the sails of your mind and push you from one destination or scenario to the next.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Guest Post: Fearlessness through Fear

I had always been fine flying until one particular flight in August of 2010. I was going to Tanzania to give some presentations and expected it to be a difficult trip, my first time to Africa, hostile audience (people who weren't happy with the strategy my team was developing), you get the idea. I boarded the plane and sat down my seat in the very back row. All of a sudden, I just began to feel trapped, like I couldn't breathe, hot, legs shaking, and panicked.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

4 Buddhist Ways to Loosen the Bully's Grip

Whether in the schoolyard or in the workplace, bullies seem ever-present in the United States. Competition, aggression and our tendency to be hyper-self-critical are aspects of our culture that contribute to this. 

The behavior of the bullies you confront will change as you get older, but at any age, a bully is someone who tries to break your spirit. Bullies pump themselves up by teasing or terrorizing others, exposing the painful fact that their victims are weaker. They may lock kids in the wood-shop tool shed (my own personal experience), steal lunch money, or continuously undermine their co-workers to make themselves look more important or competent. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Clinging to Hope and Fear

In the second of the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha taught that clinging or attachment is the root of suffering. On Christmas Eve I was reminded of this.

My wife and I had plans to go over to a close friend's house for Christmas Eve dinner. I was extra excited because usually DC empties out for Christmas and we have no friends around. Christmas eve has seemed kind of lonely over the past few years, but this year would be different. 

I eagerly planned out the side dish I would make for the occasion. Then, just as I was about to go out and buy a bottle of wine and the ingredients for my side dish, I got a phone call from my friend.