Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sept 12, 2010 - Suffering

In the time of Buddha, a woman suffered the death of her only child. Unable to accept it, she ran from person to person, desperately seeking a medicine to restore her child to life. She was directed to approach the Buddha.

She asked for a medicine to restore her child to life. The Buddha told her that to make this medicine he would need special ingredients. He told her that he needed a handful of mustard seeds from a household where no child, spouse, parent, or servant had died.

The woman ran from house to house in search of the mustard seed. The houses she went to were happy to give her the seed. When she asked if death had ever visited their home, they all acknowledged that they had lost loved ones. The woman was unable to find a home free from the suffering of death. Seeing that she was not alone in her grief, the mother let go of her child’s lifeless body, and returned to the Buddha. He said, with great compassion, “You thought that you alone had lost a son; the law of death is that among all living creatures there is no permanence.”

Suffering is something that we all experience; none of us will escape this law.

We of the western society tend to believe that if we are suffering, we have somehow done some thing ‘wrong’, or that something must be ‘fixed’ in order to restore happiness. We have a tendency to not want to face our suffering, so we look for ways to escape from it. External escapes, such as addictions, entertaining a myriad of distractions, and chemicals; internal escapes such as denying or blaming; will in the long run, fail, and often times will cause the suffering to be greater. We can not escape the law that we will suffer in our lifetimes, but how we react to it, what we do when it is in our midst, is entirely up to us. And in this way, we can not only face our suffering, accept its inevitability, but perhaps learn some thing important in its wake.

The Dalai Lama entertains a way to make this a little easier for ourselves. If we contemplate suffering in all its forms, then when it comes to us, it will be easier for us to face it, and easier for us to respond to it in a productive manner. This does not alleviate the suffering in the least bit, but it will help us to mentally prepare and not be blind-sided by it. Since it is a fact, a law, that suffering does occur; and since we see that there is more suffering in the world than contentment and happiness, we begin to understand that we will have to deal with it as a reality. Our attitude toward suffering can help us greatly in dealing with these issues as they arise.

‘I think that how you perceive life as a whole plays a role in your attitude about suffering. For instance, if your basic outlook is that suffering is negative and must be avoided at all costs, and in some sense is a sign of failure, this will add a distinct psychological component of anxiety and intolerance when you encounter difficult circumstances, a feeling of being overwhelmed. On the other hand, if your basic outlook accepts that suffering is a natural part of your existence, this will undoubtedly make you more tolerant towards the adversities of life.’ -Dalai Lama

In accepting our lives in this place, it is important to not take an overall pessimistic view. The reason that all societies in the world have religion is that it stabilizes our place here, gives us a purpose and reason to exist at all, and gives us strength and sanity. If you can find your inner spirituality, no matter what your doctrine, than you can find the underlying objective to your life, and take the altruistic path. With this basis, you can see that every one is here to learn, not how to suffer, but how to live well in spite of suffering. We can learn to grow and progress through the teachings that are rooted in suffering. And we can better our spirits, since once we leave this world, our spirit is the only thing that we will be taking with us.

In my mind, we are here to learn, to grow, to love, and to one day progress to the next step, or to find out way back to God-Home. Either way, this is my path, and it causes me to feel at peace. I am hoping that this will also give you a sense of hope and peace as well.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sept 9, 2010 Compassion is the Key

When the Dalai Lama was asked whether he ever gets lonely, he responded that he did not. When asked to elaborate, he said that this might be attributed to his compassion for all human beings. He looks for the positive in everyone that he meets, and that helps to set up a connectedness and warmth with them at that instance. And, although it may not always be greeted by others with a mirrored friendliness, it does put one in a position of changing their approach to encourage a more open exchange.

Now, when you look at the teachings of Jesus, you hear the same ring of compassion. To approach everyone as your brother, your sister, not better than you, not worse than you, but the same, is the height of nonjudgmental living. It’s absolutely freeing, and the hardest thing I have every half-heartedly done!

It’s very hard for me to practice this. I am Scorpio, and honestly do not harbor compassion for others easily. Disdain is probably more like it! But truly, I have practiced this technique some and found out that the response from other people was almost always good. And it astounded me! I hate to say this, but people that I normally would not talk to opened up to me very easily. People that I “assumed” where to good to speak to me, spoke with me. It awed and humbled me to know that I was (am) such a prick!

I have always been socially retarded, I was very ‘closed off’ in school, and literally had to make myself speak to people at all in my 20’s. There was always this hierarchy in my mind, this person is better; this person is worse, etc. Always comparing and judging, always worrying about how I would look to other people. Absolutely exhausting, really! I worked on a lot of different issues, but this is one I still have to tackle in order to reach the state of grace that I want to achieve.

It doesn’t come to me naturally, so I really have to exercise the techniques of approaching and responding to people from a stand point of compassion. I know that this will only help me to get by in this world. So here’s one of the issues I was speaking of in my bio, when I said “don’t ask her to practice what she preaches”. I know that I am lacking in this area of my life, and I know that I suffer for it, and the next step is to do the work necessary to make this habit.

And I don’t think the learning will stop until I am gone from this world.

Monday, September 6, 2010

September 6 2010 - The Pursuit of Happiness

When I was young, I was extremely unhappy. I was amazed to find out that not everyone had suicidal thoughts. I had a few people in my life to show me that I had some worth as a human, but not a lot of support from my main family unit. I know that a lot of us have come from the same place.

For my case, it was really the times that we lived in. The generation that my mother came from was taught to never speak of their troubles with anyone outside the home, and Psychiatry was still viewed as something for severe schizophrenics, not for your semi-functioning individuals. We as a society were just starting to see the worth in evaluating ourselves and our thinking, but most people kept everything repressed due to shame and/or conditioning. The majority was prone to say, “That’s just the way I am”, and leave it at that.

I saw a few people in my life that were not depressed all the time, that were genuinely happy, and I wanted that. In the early 80’s I began to read self help books, and attending regular group therapy sessions.

During the self-help craze of that time, we slowly began to examine who we were, where we came from, which leads to the next logical step…where are we going?.

The pioneers in the field of depression wrote books that explained ideas that were totally new to me, and were of great help to me. They explained that our emotions are caused by out thoughts, and we control our own thoughts, so ultimately, we control our emotions. We were conditioned by our environment, society, family, etc., to think specific ways, whether they were helpful or hindering. What we could accomplish, however, was to break from the thinking that was negative, and promotes positive thinking in ourselves. This would in turn produce positive emotions for us. We were challenged to accept that we are a culmination of our choices, and not a slave to our circumstances.

I took this idea, and I ran with it. Every time that I would hear myself say that I wasn’t worth anything, I would stop myself and change that into a positive. I am worth something. I am here for a reason, and I am in control of myself. It was hard, because my negativity was habitual, so the very first thing was to recognize what I was saying to myself, before I could change it into something self-affirming. But I stuck to this, and kept chasing my happiness, until it became habitual to change the negative into a positive. Not that I still don’t berate myself sometimes, but that I almost immediately analyze what I’m doing, and change it. It’s become my habit now.

When I become anxious and nervous and scared, I would commence to do something I call “talk myself down out of the trees”. In my mind, I visualized an agitated monkey screaming and jumping from limb to limb, accomplishing nothing. I would have an internal dialogue like, “O.K., girl, let’s calm down and see what’s going on…figure out what’s important. You don’t need to be freaking right now…”. This exercise has been of tremendous value to me. At one point in my life, I started to have anxiety attacks, and I had already practiced this technique for quite a few years, so I used it when I had these attacks. It worked like a charm. And after about 6 months, I didn’t have any more attacks. And I never had to seek out drugs to moderate my mood.

I can say that for the most part, I am genuinely happy. I realize that I have worth and real gifts to give to the world. Because I have practiced positive thinking and temperance in my emotional state, I have come to a place where I can trust myself not to go to far out “into the trees”. That even though I have the occasional ‘back-slides’, I can bring myself out of them and get myself back to a state of calm and love. I can do this, because it was my dream to have happiness, and I pursued the teachings of happiness, and I practiced the exercises of happiness.

I’m telling you that you can do the same.

♥ LOVE ♥