Your future self wants to say hello to you!

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My future self has white hair… and dandruff!

The past and the future …. Many people have their minds existing in these illusionary places…. Living in the past or dreaming of the future…. In Zen, it could said that we strive to have our minds exist in the present moment..To be mindful of what is occurring now.

In practice, it may seem very hard to truly be ‘in the present’ ‘in the moment’ ..

At some point, after meditation and deep thought, a certain realization may occur… This striving to be in the moment, to stop living in the past and to stop desiring the future… is not very hard at all. In fact, we may see the opposite.. it is very hard to live in the past, and very hard dreaming of the future!

So, say, for example, we try to reverse our goal – to avoid fully living in the present and only live in the past and future – we realize something – you can’t escape the present! You simply can’t do it! lol

So, we may reach a point where we see that this is all there is.. this present moment – we may see that in this present moment, we can think of the past, we can visualize the future – but its only done right now. It can only be that way. This is all you have. It is really, really simple. This is it. Right now. It can never leave you no matter how hard you try!

All of the past and all of the future can only be contained and exist in the present.  The arrow of time is not straight…. Just as the horizon on Earth makes the world seem flat.. at some point we can begin to see it’s not straight, not flat and it curves…so much it loops back onto itself. This is how the future can influence the past. Sound crazy? Perhaps! Lol.  But the scientific method of seeking truth is also coming to this realization.

So what does this all mean other than giving me a headache? Lol.

For me, sometimes when I am struggling and suffering, I try to think about my ‘future Richard’ – and I know he has my back and I know he is affecting me right here, right now, sending me deep love and understanding. I love that guy.

Of course these are all just words, just models, conceptions.. but I hope they may serve as a medicine when taken as directed. 😉

Low self esteem

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London palm. Wisdom radiates and pulses throughout the cosmos, straight into my heart. 

Sometimes during contemplative reflection I become utterly disgusted with myself. I amaze myself that I allow myself to think and do certain things, that, when I look back objectively, I am stunned at myself.

Having low self-esteem is not healthy, of course, and meditation is usually not thought of as something to make you feel worse about yourself! lol.

Confronting our true selves can be hard. It is painful to accept we may not be the person we want to believe we are.

Ultimately, our true self is not ourself, and although we must have individual responsibility, we can never bear the load alone, no matter how isolated that burden may feel.

(I must say that sometimes during meditation I become utterly elated with myself… and although this may feel super awesome, it has its own dangers… mainly of reinforcing the illusion of my own self ego, but that’s a whole other story!)

Outrageous!

bumper sticker

(not my own photo)

I remember many years ago seeing a bumper-sticker and it really resonated with me. In our world, there are numerous things to be outraged about..and the more you look, ie. pay attention, the more outrageous things you will see.. and this will start to extend into things that are currently accepted as legal and normal…

I think the bumper sticker needs another verse however:

If you’re outraged, you’re not paying attention!

This brings it back home, back inside. … When we view our world, we may get full of rage, outrage… and feel more than justified… for example, feeling rage when learning about 53 people being murdered in a nightclub. No matter how justified we may feel with this emotion of hatred and rage, we should look at the origin of this feeling. (The origin is the shooting, idiot!) Anger and rage are natural.. why did we evolve these feelings? To help our survival… to put us in a fight-or-fight response. However, when we see these images on our computers, thousands of miles away perhaps, the flight-or-fight response becomes unnecessary…. we are too far away to help protect the people and too far away about trying to get away from the danger. Sure, you may say that rage fuels our fight response, which we can take to stopping others before they get the chance to do the same in the future. But this type of ‘fighting’ would require a strategy, and therefore the immediate ‘fighting’ could not be achieved (ie. the rage we may feel can not be acted up in a constructive way).

So, bringing it back inside ourselves… if we pay close attention, we do not need to be filled with rage, it will not help anyone. Sure, when we first learn of horrific events, we may feel anger and rage.. that is natural… but it is not natural to hold onto this anger… in nature, we evolved to have an immediate response to this anger…

When we look inside ourselves, we may see that running or fighting/protecting isn’t a valid choice given our position. So what shall we do? Let it fall away and see what remains… Once the anger and rage are released, we may begin to see things more clearly and have a better idea of what could be done.

 

 

Terrorism and hate

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I look to the Buddha’s teachings to understand my own true nature. What I always find is that Love binds all beings.

Choosing forgiveness and love over hate and fear is sometimes portrayed as being weak, ignorant and unpatriotic. It is easy to let fear make our choices for us. We can even rationalize the prejudices they blossom.

When terrorists attack, fear is a natural state of mind. We naturally look for clues to keep us and our loved ones safe and protected. Sometimes we look at a particular aspect of the form. Take ‘Islamic Terrorists’. Yes, there are people who commit horrific acts who do so wearing the cover of Islam. Does this mean we should fear Islam? Should we let these people define our fear? And hence our modes of protecting ourselves? When we calm down and think deeply, we may begin to realize that these people do not represent their faith, that they want to play on our fears and their agenda grows strongest when anger and fear create separation.

So, instead of letting adrenaline focus our minds on the form, which is useful in evolutionary terms when identifying venomous spiders, let us focus our minds on the function. These terrorist attacks… they occur from human beings. These people are clearly suffering in their own minds and hearts. So much so they kill people such as they do. Killing is wrong. Hating hate is not useful. It spins the wheel of hatred. This is how the Islamic State grows. When terrorists are killed ‘pro-actively’, it breeds more hatred, on both sides, and simply makes the world more dangerous, not safer.

Do I suggest simply doing nothing and letting more attacks to happen? No, self protection is natural. But I do not suggest pre-emptive murder to protect against murder. We must look into the reasons why people become ‘radicalized’. After all, these are human beings. They must be suffering horribly to become convinced to murder. Love and compassion are the way to stop the violence. Now, angry dogs bark at buddhas… That means, some people will always be too ill in this life to grasp the nature of love and they will end up harming and killing people. Murder and hate will not be abolished fully. But thinking of terrorists as human beings is an important starting point.

Just as Islam has been hijacked by some, do not let your mind be hijacked by hate and prejudice. This is what the Islamic State, for example, wants. They want you to hate them. This is a part of their agenda. This makes them stronger. So, if you really want to protect the world from terrorism, put down your hate for them. As in Christianity it is said to Love they Neighbour. .. Love… not like, not tolerate, certainly not condemn and kill, but Love… Love they neighbour… It is the Way, the Light. Love.

I am human. When I see a terrorist attack, i feel fear and deep anger. Hatred for the horrific acts. My blood may boil. This is natural. This is human. I am not anything above this reaction, or below it.

We must learn to realize that we are human in our reaction to such events. But this reaction has evolved for a response almost certainly not applicable to these events, as we almost certainly will not be directly in the mist of an attack. If we are, then adrenaline is certainly our friend, and real time thoughts and actions are valuable. But, sitting on a warm couch, seeing things unfold on tv… our evolution betrays us… our natural reaction isn’t appropriate and not very useful.

We need to feel with our hearts, tempered by rational thought. To fill the world with love.

In Buddhism, there is the concept of Bodhisattvas…people who realize their own inherent Enlightened state but delay final release from human form in order to save all beings from suffering. All beings. Every single being. So they know their task will never end, but they also know it can only ever end this way. In the End, all beings will understand. We are all teammates, even the beings that we, as humans, may hate with all our being.

The Middle Way

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trees

The Middle Way is an integral part of Buddhism… sometimes this distills into ‘everything in moderation’. While there is truth in this, there is also danger. You don’t want everything in moderation… you do not want any cyanide in your bloodstream! Lol.

But seriously, the Buddha practiced asceticism for years before he realized his Enlightened nature. I have written about this recently. By denying yourself of the nourishment it requires, this actually feeds your ego-mind. ‘I will deny myself pleasure. I will deny myself good health until I realize enlightenment. I will suffer.’ …. They all involve an affirmation of ‘I’.

I don’t think I need to discuss the opposite of this… of hedonism.

So I ask myself.. could the Buddha have realized his enlightenment if his body wasn’t taken care of?

The Middle Way is not about checking yourself if you have too much or too little. It is a result, not a precursor of realizing we are already complete, already buddhas. But certainly it is wise to follow the Middle Way before our realization.

All of the Buddha’s teachings are the natural function of realizing our Enlightened state.

There is a saying that God will never give you more than you can handle. In Zen, we say that a bad situation is a good situation. God knows what he is doing.. He is pure Love, no? He is the ultimate teacher so when we suffer, have a horrific situation… can we see good in that? I like to think these things out in extremes. For example, say we were witness to unimaginable massacres that do occur… We see family and friends murdered before our eyes. God as a teacher seems absent. We might not be able to handle it and have a mental breakdown. How horrible. Can we learn and grow from this experience? We might not allow ourselves to take anything ‘good’ from it, it may feel like we would be disrespecting what occurred. ‘I refuse to see anything good from such evil’. Does this not make the evil even more evil? Does it not make it triumph even more over us? I know if my family saw me killed in a horrific way I would want them to somehow learn from it. Mourning wouldn’t be diminished for this.

So, a bad situation is a good situation. It can provide us with the passion to find our true nature. Who we truly are. In times of extreme distress, nonreligious people will pray for God’s help, for a higher power’s help… desperate, they reach out for help… beg for help and offer repentance or service.

Zen Master Dogen said we must practice as if our hair was caught on fire….

Our hair has been burning for longer than time exists, we just haven’t realized it yet.

Dinosaur desire-mind!

I want to eat you!

I want to eat you!

Desire mind- When we desire something, we can be said to have ‘desire-mind’. In Buddhism, this is a dangerous mind, as it will not help to end our suffering, and in fact, it only leads to promoting our suffering.

Now, what is ‘desire’? We may really crave mint chocolate-chip ice cream, hold a real desire to eat some! Now, this desiring can be fairly easy to be seen as potentially a losing venture. When we are dreaming of the ice cream, we destroy the present moment, we are thinking of a future which may or may not occur. We also reinforce our attachment to ice cream. In Buddhism, attachment leads to suffering, so being so attached to deliciously awesome ice cream is not the Way.

Now, what if we are dehydrated, stuck without water for days and days…. Our minds may be somewhat single-minded in obtaining water… desiring water, attached to getting water…. Now, is that a bad thing? lol. No way!

It can be seen how the evolution of our ‘desire-mind’ was a great tool in survival. The Universe knows what it is doing! lol. So, having desires is natural, and, when we do not attach ourselves to our desires, we can be free of their potential suffering. Now, even our attached mind focused on only getting water… That is fine, so long as we do not attach ourselves to our attachment! hahahaha. Sounds like escape-clause logic to me! But it is true….

Desires are natural, normal, yet we must think deeply about the origin of our desires and when the true origins reveal themselves to us, we can become unattached to them. So, even though you may always have a soft-spot for mint chocolate-chip ice cream, it doesn’t mean you need to be attached by it, to be governed by it.

Who is the master? Our desires or ourselves?

First one may take back control over their desires, then one may give back control over themselves to the Universe.

Luna Fish

LunaFish. She wasn't always looking this grumpy!

LunaFish. She wasn’t always looking this grumpy!

One of my cats had been suffering with an illness that was not going to get any better. She was slowly starving to death and my wife and I decided that we should not let her suffer any longer. What a horrible position to be in, to decide in taking a life. What a worse place for my cat to be in.

Luna-Fish was her name. She was born in Woodstock, New York and flew over when my wife and I moved to England. She was your typical ‘scared-e-cat’. She got spooked by any abrupt noise or movement. Plastic bags and guitars were the worse!

Now, I know cats can’t speak, lol, but she was telling me it was her time. She asked in her own way. She knew. The day the vets came to the house (She was such a gentle and skittish kitty, that we wanted to put her to sleep at her home, to be as comfortable as possible), that day, I had her on my bed. My wife and I took turns sitting with her while the other watched our kids. Luna had spent the past few weeks living under the bed. She loved under there, but it had become the only place she stayed. I crawled underneath to pull her out. She wasnt happy about it, but she also didn’t really stop me either. I put her on top of the bed. And we just sat. And sat. I cried, oh bucket loads of tears. Luna understood.

My mother-in-law took over watching the kids, so my wife and I spent some time together with Luna. She was in constant pain, but now, at that time, she seemed to let go of her suffering, she was, well, relieved. And she was so strong, so brave. She laid up against my leg and rested her head, her chin on my thigh. It was complete gratefulness and love. She was ready. It was horrible yet beautiful. My wife reminded me to be happy for Luna, not sad, but my heart poured tears.

I miss Luna. Where did she go? I don’t know but I wish her well and thank her for being part of my family. She was such a special cat.

 

To Buddha or not to Buddha?


Forest Hermitage, Warwickshire, UK

Forest Hermitage, Warwickshire, UK

Being born, in Buddhist terms, means that one is still ‘stuck’ in samsara, stuck in continual rebirth. Not free. Being born is already a mistake.

How depressing! lol.

It is sort of like Original Sin in Christianity. I do not know much about Christianity so I can’t comment much, but I think the idea behind these two thoughts are the same.

So, being born means being born into an unenlightened state.

In Buddhism, being born a human is the best thing to be born… we are very lucky to be human. Even beings ‘above’ us like gods and goddesses, spirits and the like can not experience the freedom realized through Enlightenment. Nor can hungry ghosts and animals.

Now, I feel this is a dangerous model of sorts, as it may serve to boost ones ego, separating them further from Enlightenment. But of course, it can serve as a wonderful motivator for many.

Writing or speaking about Enlightenment is avoided by many Buddhists, including myself. I can liken it to why Muslims do not practice ‘idol worship’. They do not believe images of Mohammad should be created… because once you try to define or describe him, you always fall well short and do a great disservice. Now, in Buddhism, idol worship is OK. Many many Buddha statues everywhere!! But Buddhists, we need to be careful not to let our love and gratitude for the Buddha’s teaching to be obscured by images and statues in his likeness. Hui Neng, the sixth patriarch of Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism beat a copy of the Diamond Sutra with a stick. His point was about this danger… attaching to words, teachings, even the Buddha himself. That’s why there’s a saying in Buddhism, “If you meet the Buddha, you must kill the Buddha!”

I personally feel the benefits of having Buddha images in my home outweigh the potential dangers. They remind me that it is possible to realize our Enlightened nature. They remind me that the Buddha was a man, a human, nothing more, nothing less. He suffered and he worked hard to figure out how to stop this. He taught the Way. He also taught, as he was dying, for us to be lamps upon our own selves. Our Enlightened nature is within us, or rather among us.

Lets not fear talking about Enlightenment. It is the goal of all Buddhists, is it not? Of course, making it a goal destroys it. That’s why it is sometimes called the goalless goal! lol. Oh these tricky Buddhists! I sometimes hate talk like that! Just tell me the answer, not riddles! hahaha.

When Dogen said that Time-Being is a sixteen foot Buddha statue, he meant it. What does that mean?! Just tell me! hahaha.

May all beings realize their inherent Enlightened nature and for love to continue to spread throughout the Universe.

Boats

I like this boat!

I like this boat!

Living with an ‘invisible’ illness can be difficult to manage sometimes. Sometimes, I feel fine, sometimes not so fine. On the outside, i look fine and i usually act fine, so its hard for other people to know what I am going through. On support group websites and the like I see lots of things like ‘what not to say to someone who has chronic illness’.. .and it will say things like ‘don’t tell me to change my diet or to be positive or i need to exercise more or tell me you are tired too’…. Sometimes i can relate to why these things could be upsetting, but usually they are said with an air of compassion, of trying to help. However, sometimes they are said with blame attached, as if it is all my own fault and if I just exercised and ate more fruit I would be healed. It is the same as telling someone with clinical depression that they just need to snap out of it and just be happy.

I try not to tell anyone how exhausted i am or what pain i may be in (Except my wife and well, i guess everyone reading this,lol!). Everyone has something invisible they are dealing with, and has to work with and might never go away. We are all in the same boat, sometimes the waters are calm and smooth, sometimes they are choppy and scary. But we are all in a boat. And we all have the same destination.

Buddhists are encouraged to meditate in groups…. it is like sailing all our boats together, tying them up and make the stability and direction stronger than the individual boats alone combined. We are social animals, we work best as team-mates. We all experience suffering of one kind or another, so lets join together to end each others suffering. How? Love and understanding. Understand that every person, every being you interact with, has something they are working through, or will have to work through at some time, and that everyone passes away.

A zen teacher once gave a talk about his work in prisons.. with inmates on death row. It was a sobering talk. Then he said something I will never forget… ‘We are all on death row.’ Yeah, of course we are, and we all know that… we will all die someday…. but for me, those words hit home…. and I carry that with me….. So, what do we want to do with our lives?

We are all in the same boat.

The Sun shines after a drizzle filled morning while birds fly passed majestic rainbows. A dead mouse lies on the path and a puppy gives it a good sniff.

Lurking…

Your tiger will never leave, so stop running and take him with you. There is no rush.

Your tiger will never leave, so stop running and take him with you. There is no rush.

The tiger is always lurking.

We can ignore him, we can run from him, we can challenge him.

But he is always there, always watching you. Waiting.

Now, one day this tiger will eat you. You know that. He knows that. He eats all beings.

So, do we run from the tiger? Do we challenge the tiger? Do we ignore the tiger? We can’t kill the tiger, so what do we do?

We can tremble in fear, knowing we will be eaten. We can get angry and attack the tiger (though we know who will win). We can ignore him, hoping he will get bored and go away.

Or we can accept him. He has a job to do. If we befriend him, perhaps when he comes to eat us, it will be a joyful occurence. Well, maybe joyful isn’t correct. If we befriend him, a freedom emerges and we no longer become bound living in fear of death.