Category Archives: Buddhism

Planting a seed

Planting a seed

When you think of a leader, what do you think of? Many of us think of teachers, bosses, or someone like Ghandi or Mother Theresa. The truth is that all of us have the ability to be a leader. The moments that come back to me, that people tell me they remember the most aren’t the ones that I see myself as being a leader, they are the moments in which I was kind, open, and present with someone.

Usually the moments that I am told are the most impressionable are the ones in which I plant a seed. They are the moments that I tell someone that their hair is amazing that day, or that the hat they are wearing looks amazing. They are the moments that I sneak up on someone, unknowing and let them know that in that moment they are doing amazing. The moments I want to be teaching moments often have little impact. It is the tiny moments that have the biggest impact. It is the moments that I am kind during a moment of someone’s darkest moments that I lead the best.

The scary part is that I have no idea when this moment is. I have no way of knowing when someone’s low point, or when they are vulnerable. So in order to lead, this means I just have to be present, open, honest, and kind with people all the time. Think of a moment that you remember someone making an impression on you. The things you hold on to, that teach you a lesson. Some of these moments for me are the ones that are during actual teaching moments. And many of them are during random moments when someone did something that spoke to me in a way that I remembered.

These teaching moments are all around us, and they can’t be planned. A lecture to a kid isn’t going to be remembered. The moment when they are low and you cheer them up will be. The moment when you are in the check-out line at the grocery store and you ask the person in the wheelchair behind you if you can help may be the moment they learn that people can be nice to them they just need to trust.

Ultimately, this is a long winded way to say “be nice to people, you don’t know when they will need your kindness”. We all have the chance to be leaders. We all have the chance to plant seeds in people. When we honk and flip people off in traffic we plant a seed of violence and anger. When we give the person behind in the check-out line the penny, nickle, or even dollar they are short of their bill, they are taught a lesson of kindness. These moments sneak up on us, and often we don’t remember them as others do. We just need to be kind. As often and as much as we can, we need to be kind. This is how we plant seeds.

I want to be a leader in kindness. This means all day, every day I need to plant seeds. When I wave the guy in that is trying to merge on the highway, or say something nice to someone on the street. When I pick up the dropped object from the person with full arms, or even pay it forward at the coffee shop I plant a seed. These are the seeds I want to plant. I want to be a leader. I try to do so in my practice, but the moments people remember the most are the ones in which I was genuine, honest, and kind. Go out in to your day and be genuine, honest, and kind. You will plant more seeds than you know, and be more of a leader than you ever thought you could be.

Finding Gratitude during this Thanksgiving

Every day I run in to pet-peeves.  Just driving to work I hit triggers and frustrations, and my drive is only 2 miles.  As I move through my day I hear triggers from others, I hear frustrations and I hear difficulties.  Then comes the drive home on the same roads with many of the same people that hit the pet-peeve triggers to begin with.  Then I listen to the news and hear of the refugees flooding in to Europe that are being turned away, some of them dying in their attempts.  I hear of the cops killing people, and the people killing cops.  I see all of the hate, anger and suffering in the world.  It is easy to get lost in all of that.

It is easy to get lost in the hurt and the anger and the suffering of the day and of the world.  It is easy to lose sight of the other side of the coin.  Every day I see people find the best of themselves, taking strides forward.  I see watch other drivers show kindness to each other. I watch couples talk to each other with kindness, and strangers tell each other jokes at the bus stop.  Every day my partner gives me a reminder of his kindnesses.  If I look for it, every day I can find some kind of beauty.

It is easy to see the frustrations, the hurts and suffering of the world.  It takes intention to see the beautiful, the things to be grateful for.  Each day there are beautiful things to see and be aware of. These are moments of gratitude.   The moment your cat reaches over with her paw to draw your hand in to a pet. The moment you see other people fighting and recognize how safe your relationship is.  The moment you look up and see the sunset setting the sky on fire and see the beauty.  The moment you recognize the things that are beautiful, you remember that the world isn’t just suffering.  The world is also beauty.

Some days the moments of gratitude are easy to find.  Some days you see the little beauties of the world and they fall like leaves from a tree.  Some days it is harder.  The days you find out your best friends dad died and you watch her cry her heart out, or your partner spits up with you.  The days when just the act of existing brings up all the suffering of the world.  These are the most important days of all to find the moments of gratitude.

The next step is to share our moments.   There are many ways we can share our moments of gratitude, especially in today’s digital age.  First, if you have a family make it a part of your family to share, preferably on a daily basis those moments.  At dinner, at bedtime, or in your own ritual.  This keeps your family or partnership connected and helps through the difficult times.  If you are currently single, share with your friends, on your Facebook or instagram or even Whisper page.  We are so quick to share our suffering.  “A thousand candles can be lighted from the flame of one candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened.  Happiness can be spread without diminishing that of yourself”.  Mahatma Ghandi

Gratitude reminds us that there are blessings in the world, that there are silver linings on the cloud.  Making a daily practice of gratitude keeps a reserve of sunshine when the clouds seem to be taking over.  These practices can help us when we’re alone and single to remember that we aren’t fully alone.  These practices can help us connect with our families at the dinner table, when each day everyone has to give their one thing, the one beauty they saw in the day.  Every day take a moment and fine at least one thing you can be grateful for in your day.  Find a way to share it, either with your friends or family or on Facebook.  We share our frustrations all the time, switch the script.

I want happiness!

We have come to equate ego as self-esteem or self-importance.  If someone is said to have a big ego, they are believed to think higher of themselves than they really deserve.  But the Freudian concept of ego really is the concept of self.  We all actually have a very strong ego, we may like who we are or we may not, but we all are strongly in touch with our sense of self.  That sense of self however often is what gets in the way of our happiness. 

 Our sense of self is created as we move through the world and get feedback about our actions and the things that happen to us.  We create a concept of what we can and can’t do, our own personal value, and the value of the things around us.  Then within that concept we work to navigate our world.  It is also a great deal of what allows us to decide of we are happy or not.  We create definitions of what we want within what we find important and what makes us happy. 

 This is when things get tricky.  When the things we find important or the things we believe make us happy are not present we often struggle.  We then start looking to find happiness, chasing and chasing to find something that our ego, our experiences and our beliefs get in the way of us finding. 

Happiness is all around us.  There are things that will cause pain and difficulties, and yet even then happiness is still all around us.  The sense of I gets in the way of finding what we want.  I am in pain. I am struggling.  I can’t do what I want, or believe I should be able to do.  The I, the ego, can be a huge distraction from happiness. 

 Our ego makes a lot of decisions in our lives.  Can you see where it gets in the way of your happiness?  Do people tell you that you are beautiful, and you can’t believe them?  Do you try your best, do better than you’ve ever done, and it still isn’t good enough?   “There is no good or bad, our thinking makes it so”  Shakespeare.    Where can I get my ego out of my way for even a little bit of happiness?happiness-comic

Learning how to dance

Going with the Flow

A Taoist
story tells of an old man who accidentally fell into the river rapids
leading to a high and dangerous waterfall. Onlookers feared for his
life. Miraculously, he came out alive and unharmed downstream at the
bottom of the falls. People asked him how he managed to survive.

“I accommodated myself to
the water, not the water to me. Without thinking, I allowed myself to
be shaped by it. Plunging into the swirl, I came out with the swirl.
This is how I survived.”

I happen to think in pictures, and sometimes this creates difficulty when trying to describe concepts in my head to clients.  A picture that I had in my head while working with a client recently was that every time the world would change directions she would fall over, working her best to  continue on in the direction she was going, the direction she was comfortable with.   The picture I had was working to shift from fighting the change and falling, to flowing with the change.  Moving from falling, to dancing.

So much of the suffering I see in my clients is attempts to keep the world the way it was, instead of adjusting to the way it really is.  Sakyong Mipham discusses in his book How To Turn Your Mind in to an Ally how we create difficulty for ourselves by resisting change.  Struggling to keep the world in our safety zone where we are comfortable.

The world is going to shift, often in ways that we don’t plan, or even want.  If we struggle to keep the world the same, every time it shifts in a new direction we risk falling.  Consider the world your dance partner, always in the lead.  There will always be times now and then the world shifts unexpectedly and we are knocked off our feet.  In general though, if we keep our heads (and our hearts) together we can follow the shifts and keep our feet, hopefully with even a little grace.

Buddhism believes that suffering comes from wanting.  Wanting to draw closer, push away, or wanting to keep the same. An old saying, possibly over used, “the only constant is change”.  The world will shift, time will move forward, and change will come.  When we can learn to follow the changes the world is going to throw at us, we can learn to dance instead of fall.

Accepting pain can lead to enlightenment

Life involves pain, and live involves suffering. That is a natural fact that we cannot change, though we all try. Enlightenment, also known as insight or wisdom is the understanding that these are basic facts, and nothing we do will keep them away. We do have a choice about how much suffering we allow to enter our personal universe.

So what does it take to control the level of suffering we let in? First and foremost we have to acknowledge that pain is a part of life. We instinctively try to avoid pain. In some ways this is a good thing. We work together toward common goals to avoid the pain of loneliness, we work to stay safe so we don’t suffer painful damage. It also keeps us from taking risks that would bring great joy, letting people love us, letting ourselves love people, or letting go of things that are done and over. It is OK to be in pain. We believe that hurting is weakness, and we want to push pain as far from us as possible. Instead we need to embrace the pain. That sounds counter-intuitive, but when we embrace the pain it has less power over us.

What follows next is radical acceptance. What this means is accepting the things in life that aren’t as wonderful as we would like them to be and that many of them are unable to be changed. I cannot change the weather, or our government, or the people around me. Once I reach this place of radical acceptance I stop trying to fight the things that I can’t change. I change how I react and move through the universe. With the weather, we don’t try to change the weather we change how we dress in reaction to the weather. We accept that the weather is going to be what it is, and we act accordingly. If we can do the same in the rest of our lives, we are less frustrated. This leads to less suffering as we recognize what we can’t change, and enjoy what is.

The final part of enlightenment is gratitude. Making gratitude a part of your daily life leads to working to find the things every day to be grateful for. No matter how big or how small, finding the things that we can say “thank you” to our own god or perception of the universe helps shift the focus from what keeps us frustrated to what is beautiful in the world. Each day, work to find the beauty, the joy, and the kindnesses in the world. They are there, especially when we look.

Pain is a given no matter who you are. It is a part of life that is inescapable. Trying to escape from pain makes us miserable. Suffering is not as mandatory. Suffering comes from what we believe, and what we try to do because of our beliefs. If we believe that death is a horrible terrible thing then we work to run from death, and suffer greatly when the people around us pass. If we believe that it is a natural part of life, we have fear and pain related to our own passing and that of others, but it isn’t as horrible and there is less suffering. Enlightenment is recognizing that pain is going to be a part of life no matter what we do or how much we try to avoid it. It is working to live with integrity, and find gratitude in the every day. The small touches of a friend or a partner. Gratitude is noticing and enjoying the laugh of a child, the kindness of a stranger, the beauty of the natural world. When we accomplish these three things and work to share it with others, we will find enlightenment.