Tag Archives: buddhism

WHAT WOULD BUDDHA DO?

Interrelationship

You are me, and I am you.
Isn’t it obvious that we “inter-are”?
You cultivate the flower in yourself,
so that I will be beautiful.
I transform the garbage in myself,
so that you will not have to suffer.

I support you;
you support me.
I am in this world to offer you peace;
you are in this world to bring me joy

Thich Nhat Hanh

I grew up around DC.  A Northern Virginia suburb that gave me the opportunity to be a part of a lot of protests- whether I was in them or knew about them, they were always there affecting the world around us.  When I worked in the district, we had to close our office on the day of the World Bank protests.  Once, my roommate was on a bus returning to our apartment in Adams Morgan and it was actually attacked by World Bank protesters.  And no, we were not in a third world country, we were in Washington DC.  My office would dread this day- when the world’s “trustafarians” would embark on the nation’s capital and protest policies that most had no concrete reason to protest other than to exercise their right to the expression of aggression over things that usually had nothing to do with what they were actually protesting.  I’m not saying that there are not reasons to protest- because I know there are a lot of policies in this world that don’t make any sense, and affect many people extremely negatively.  There are also people that seem to get away with everything, leaving those deeply affected behind, having to find some way to survive in this delusional desire realm we live in, we trudge along in every day.  If you look at history, the truth reveals itself.  Sit ins created change, peaceful marches on Washington during the Civil Rights Movement created change.

When the Occupy Movement began, I remember feeling somewhat grateful that people were out there making a statement about something they were really concerned about.  There were intelligent people out there really trying to make their voices heard about social problems that they felt could not just be swept under the rug.  There was a community starting where people were aligning with one another, and they did not feel so alone in their frustrations.  As our world is truly rooted in the “mind”, change is constant and with that change comes cycles in our collective consciousness.  Eventually, things cycle out and it is important for us to move with that change.

This blog post is a piece outing myself about protests.  Many people have called me a closet hippie, and I admit that I work hard to cover it up- believe me!  In my heart, I find that most protests are futile in nature and the most effective way to make change is by “being the change we wish to see in the world” as Gandhi once said.  I truly mean this, and although it may seem not concrete enough for most people, if we allow ourselves to be used as tools for a higher consciousness, and not only work on our own issues, but go out there and do things that really help people and create new policies that will affect those ineffective policies, then we can give an opportunity to others to grow and transform, and be provided for when they feel there is nothing left instead of fighting with stubborn egos.

We can utilize every opportunity we have to be kind and in our integrity in this life, and  affect the world to a much larger degree than mass organized protests.  Negotiation is key here- we must look at who we are dealing with in every situation, and analyze the most effective way to strategically work with someone based on their character traits and what they believe in.

The law of cause and effect is extremely important here and our actions are rooted in this principle.  If we push forward in anger and self righteousness, then that anger and self righteousness will push back because there is no separate self.  In this pushing and pulling nothing becomes settled and people walk away with more issues than they walked into the room with.  I remember being in high school and watching a documentary on LBJ and the protests outside of the White House during the Vietnam War.  There was a camera shot of him standing in the window looking out while mass protests shouted at him, “Hey, Hey, LBJ, how many kids have you killed today?”  And what did LBJ do?  He raised a flag of stubbornness rather than surrender,  and he continued on with his policies.  That picture sits in my mind so clearly and I only feel compassion for everyone involved.

Whenever you feel angry about someone’s policies or behaviors that cause more suffering in this world for others, remember what it would be like to be that person.  Be conscious of how they are creating more suffering for themselves, and in the end, their ignorance is winning in this life.  We have the greatest gift of free will to choose behavior that is not rooted in ignorance.  In the poem above by Thich Nhat Hanh, he says:

You cultivate the flower in yourself,
so that I will be beautiful.
I transform the garbage in myself,
so that you will not have to suffer.

To embrace the love within you is enough to change the world, and there is no protest that would ever change my connection to you, and vice versa.  Every seed we plant within ourselves is also planted in others around us.  I am grateful every day for the opportunity and choice that I have to live in a compassionate way and connect with others the way I would like to be treated.  When I think about my own ignorant behavior in this life, the one thing that helped me more than anything else was compassion and the willingness of another person to teach me by example rather than confrontation.

What did Siddhartha do when he saw the poverty and suffering in his city after sneaking out from his shielded reality?  He did everything he could to find enlightenment within himself so he could help ameliorate the suffering of everyone, including the poor people- and he was a prince.  His teachings are still relevant today, thousands of years later.

LAYERS OF RAINBOWS

There is neither here-
     nor there.
There is only that which is written in the soul.
  And,
      That is what you must share.

When I think about a “regular” day, it is easy for me to get caught up in the mundane activity that the ego-driven mind has created.  Life as a formulaic, step-by-step process- it could be written down like a recipe, and if someone performed the steps they would be me.  Or, would they?

Within every moment there is more happening between me and the other side of the planet, my simple mind could not conceive it all, yet it is all happening in the instant, within the instant.  Life- constantly unfolding…changing…never stopping.  I had this snap shot in my mind after reading this statement by Thich Nhat Hanh in his book Awakening of the Heart on emptiness recently-

“Each of the 5 rivers has to be made by the other 4.  It has to coexist; it has to inter-be with all others.”

The five rivers being the five aggregates: form, sensation, perception, mental formation, and consciousness.  This being said, each aggregate or river flowing within us has to contain elements of the other aggregates or rivers flowing within us.  Nothing is independent of itself. And, we are “empty of a separate, independent existence.”

This being said, I felt like I was looking from above into a tall skyscraper with the top off.  And as I looked in, I could see a system like a corporation working.  Within the corporation are layers of departments each based on an idea, a subject.  Then, there are people working in each department supporting the idea, dependent on one another as they operate.  Each person has its own universe within them including the people they know and love.  Then, they have their own mind chattering away, all day- day after day.  Within their mind is their body.  Their body is made up of organs, tissue, cells, living organisms while the mind is dictating life, while the nature, the essence of this being is slowly, deliberately becoming more apparent in a form of awareness.  Thought becomes another thought- and then what?  Life.

As I stepped out of the gym yesterday, there was a large shift in the wind.  The sky was becoming darker, and as I turned the corner to get to my car, a rainbow was standing before me, filling the sky with its abundant beauty and hope.  This rainbow reminded me of so many other rainbows- and thus began a continuation of thought and life, ever changing and all encompassing, again.

One of my most memorable moments with a rainbow came when I felt completely lost and hopeless in my existence as a human, being.  I sat in my car at the grocery store on Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA, crying and asking my angels to please help me get out of my head and the funk of hopelessness.  I cried, and cried some more.  I finally felt a little relief and stepped out of my car, to again witness a large, brightly lit rainbow illuminating the sky in full color.  At that moment, I felt the hope of transformation and gratefulness chasing out my self-inflicted demons.

How often do we forget that we are not alone, that we are not independent of one another?  This is a reminder that no matter where you look, there is a rainbow somewhere giving hope to someone, who is deeply connected to you.  Just look around you, and listen to your heart.  You will see and hear whatever it is you need, to remember your essence, your divine nature.  It just helps to be open.  To be conscious of it, but it is always there.

REFLECTIONS OF THE SILENT WITNESS

Trees & SunIn a moment
In the silence of it all, I raise my heart to you
Dear, loving friend, solitary confidant.
A breeze carries the sound of love’s trinkets
And in an instant it touches everything around me.
All encompassing, all embracing…
I do not know what I am
But to open my eyes
Only when I want to close them.
The knowing-
The completion of this single, silent moment.
And I am everything.
Alone, and alive- I hear the witness inside of me.

Filling the sky with blue, and yellow
And kindness.
If only the need to know
Understood what it was to be whole.
Without anything lost, or anything gained-
I am the silent witness,
Once again.

GOOD BOUNDARIES, HEALTHY EMPATHY

BOUNDARIES– what does this word really mean?  I once heard a speaker at a spiritual conference refer to boundaries as a joke.  I remember hearing this person scoff at the word and laugh in front of hundreds of people while she issued her commentary on lifestyle magazines and their “silly” articles.  I remember immediately thinking- really?  I actually was quite surprised and felt sad that there were so many vulnerable people around me learning that “boundaries” in a spiritual context were something dreamed up by the mind and trying to maintain them was ignorance.

It bothered me because I was someone that had very poor boundaries growing up, and was still someone struggling to understand what they really meant in my relationships- particularly with my boyfriend (and past boyfriends).  That conference was years ago, and I am still learning- but fortunately, years later- I have really owned up to my lack of boundaries and my former lack of awareness.

When I first started hearing about this word “boundaries”, I remember feeling like it was a word from an alien language.  I eventually learned that as a very sensitive person that learned to be the balancer in my group of siblings, I had a real problem blurring the lines between my feelings and someone else’s, leading to a deep lack of understanding that other people are capable of taking care of themselves and I am not responsible for how other people handle their consequences and reactions.  I lived a life of co-dependent relationships, lacking the ability to provide any accountability for behavior that was not in line with my definition of integrity.  I constantly compromised myself by being in relationships with people that also had bad boundaries and would do things that didn’t feel “right” to me.

It is easy to take the nihilistic point of view here and interpret the understanding of emptiness in a way that can be extremely dysfunctional.  Things do exist in the way that we see them from our point of view- but that is our reality and it does not mean that our point of view is any less skewed than another person’s because if we are living in an ego-driven reality then we are all delusional.  But it is also important for extremely empathic, compassionate people to understand that we are not responsible for another person’s choices and all we can do is stand in our own integrity and simply love by loving the Buddha nature of that person.

When we hold someone in that space, we are doing more than we realize, and we don’t always have to do anything else.  When we correct our mind, we help others correct their mind as well.  If we choose to not engage in another person’s drama and allow them to experience their karma through their gift of free will, yet love them by healing our inner-divide, we are doing them a greater service than trying to be involved in a relationship with them that is based on you being accountable for their state of mind.  For me this was revolutionary, and for the first time in my life I had real clarity when I was able to say in my heart that this person before me was capable of being responsible for their reactions, not me.

One morning in my journey to work I heard a clip on the radio from the interview with Rihanna and Oprah.  In the interview Rihanna was talking about how all she really cared about was that her abuser was happy in his life, and that was what mattered the most to her.  As I listened I realized how co-dependent this person still was, and it made me feel deep compassion for her.  I also felt sad that this was not brought up by Oprah in the interview because it seemed so clear to me.  She was still living out the same pattern with this person- and she was still feeling accountable for how this person felt- whether it was happiness or sadness.  This is the reason many people stay with abusers- another blurry line.

That speaker I heard years ago can mock me too if she would like to, or compare me to a silly lifestyle magazine.  But I feel it is extremely important in my work as a life coach and teacher to remember that there is a gradual process in understanding how our ego-driven mind can block us in understanding what the Buddha nature is within ourselves and how we share it with one another as spiritual beings innately connected with one another.  Until we can heal that which is broken within us emotionally, we are blind to our oneness.

It begins with recognizing the Buddha nature within our hearts and having compassion for our own suffering, then others.  And compassion is not about giving your power and energy away in an effort to ease someone’s suffering.  It is about seeing someone’s suffering and understanding that it is your suffering as well.  It involves seeing that we in our ignorant mind may not understand fully the dynamics of a karmic situation, but we can end dysfunction through the free will and choice that we have, and choose to live our life in a healthy way free of dysfunctional self perception.  This leads to forgiveness and no attachment, and without attachment we are able to see our true nature, our Buddha nature.

THANK YOU HAIKU

Lighting one candle
With another candle—
Spring evening.
Buson

No, it’s not spring.  In fact, we are about to begin the last quarter of the year with weather changing from cool to even cooler.  But one aspect still remains, regardless of the weather outside- us.  What do I mean by the word “us”?  A group of souls gathered around one another, searching for meaning in the next moment.  Asking, questioning, and wondering.  Our curiosity is always bending like a roundabout in the road, leading us to one another in the wake of another disaster, or another joyous occasion.

As I ponder on “us”, I always come back to the one projecting the thoughts- me.  Yet I am not isolated like my ego-driven mind would like me to believe.  And, if it were not for you, dear candle alight whenever I may feel blind in my darkness, I would not know anything.  My wisdom is not isolated.  My wisdom is alight because it has been lit by another, and for that I am eternally grateful.

When I opened my Haiku companion this evening, I was delighted to read this tender piece written by Buson.  As I can always trust in my higher self to deliver to me a piece of knowledge that will continue to illuminate those parts of my being that wish to be expressed, here was another beautiful piece written by someone so long ago, so far away.  Yet it is exactly what I was feeling in my heart and looking to articulate.  And Buson did it for me.   All I had to do was elaborate from my little piece of reality at this moment.  Thank you, Buson, for being here with me right now.

And thank you, dear one, for being here to read this post and continue the illumination from one soul to another realizing our true nature, our oneness in mind and deepest expressions of love.  It is my dream that as our awareness continues to grow in one another, the expansion of our potential will give way to a reality that is rooted in the truest acknowledgment of one another as a simple extension rather than a separate aspect of our selves.  That the delusion that we each give cause for reaction may simply dissolve yielding a constant peace.

LESSONS LEARNED FROM POP CULTURE

Ok- as part of my work as a writer, I find myself always dishing about movies and how they provoked my mind and heart to open just a little wider.  I love movies, what can I say?  And no matter what I’m dealing with while I navigate my mental and soul-driven landscape, watching a movie is like opening a book up to a random page that will teach me something relevant to what I am learning in that present moment.  Since perception is largely guided by the ego-driven mind, perceptions and points of view are constantly changing and impermanent.  I can watch a movie now, and years later watch it again with a whole different interpretation and feeling around it.

Every experience that we have in life is a tool for personal growth if you choose to look at it that way- even pop culture!  I know you’re asking, really?  And I’m saying, “ABSOLUTELY!” I might be the only person in the world that watched Bridget Jones Diary after every break-up (I know that is ridiculous and completely untrue) and cried when she cried after her run-in with the American stick figure in her man’s bathroom, but I guess I’m choosing to “out” myself here.

Nonetheless, I was watching Babel for the first time because I secretly knew for years that the film would completely put me into a spiraling depression, but there I was on a Saturday night ready to rock and roll.  As I watched the film, I felt my anxiety rising like the speed of a rocket bound for a crash and burn.  Every situation continued to get worse, and I found myself thinking- how could it get any worse, and yet- it did, again and again and again!

The most difficult part of that film for me was watching people suffer and make choices that you knew would cause even more suffering.  In being a deeply empathic person, films like Babel should come with a warning sticker for me.  Like those fluorescent green “Mr. Yuck” stickers my Mom used to put on everything in the kitchen sink.  Racism, emotional isolation- all mental torture.  So of course, I had to do some reflection while I watched.  In Buddhism, emptiness teaches at its core that there is no separate self.  The ego-driven mind will do everything it can to prove to you that there is and it is easy to buy into it because it is a mental habit that we have relied on for thousands of years.  Babel was painful for me because it demonstrated the constant battle we carry around with us between the ego-driven mind and our higher mind- the part that is simply, patiently waiting for us to pay attention and “get it.”

I found myself practically yelling at the screen, which is probably the way I would be yelling at myself if I could watch my life like a film.  Every choice we make affects another, whether we are conscious of it or not, because we are not separate beings.  We are interconnected in our deepest essence- whether you want to call it a soul, or our nature.  The “out” we have in all of our suffering in watching others suffer is the path of compassion and the choice to not live in ignorance.  The more awareness we choose to gain and develop, the less we live in ignorance, the more compassion we can cultivate, and the more we help the world.  It all starts with a redevelopment of our self perception, and choosing to remember our true nature- which is empty of meaning, empty of a separate self.  Thank god that movie is over!