Personal Mantras used in Meditation

It has been quite a while since my last post In The Buddha’s Words and I have no valid excuse for not being more prolific with my writing. This post will provide a justification if you will for using mantras when meditating. I like many of you suffer from a monkey mind that cannot seem to turn itself off while sitting on the cushion. All the thoughts of things you need to do, issues in your life, and a general inability to let it all go are preventing you from just focusing on your breathing. One method of blocking out the monkey mind is to use a mantra during your meditation practice.

Definition of a Mantra

  1. Hinduism. a word or formula, as from the Veda, chanted or sung as an incantation or prayer.
  2. an often repeated word, formula, or phrase, often a truism: If I hear the “less is more” mantra one more

This definition is somewhat incomplete as mantras are used in Buddhism during mediation and have many other uses. A mantra can more generally be described as repeating a word or phrase as a way of programming your mind as those who believe in the law of attraction, but in our case, the mantras I’m interested in will be used during meditation and not used to manifest anything.

If you are at the point in your meditation practice where you don’t need a mantra or two to block out the monkey mind, then more power to you, but for me, it’s a useful practice. The mantra I am using currently using goes something like this:

There is no pain, there is no suffering, there is only peace and contentment

I am saying these phrases to myself, not audibly, but thinking them. On the first breath “there is no pain”, on the second breath “there is no suffering”, on the third breath “there is only peace”, and finally on the fourth breath “and contentment”. By taking the time to think about each of these sub phrases individually during each breath you increase the emphasis on the meaning. The mantra can totally block out all other thoughts as it is repeated over and over again. For me, the act of meditation is about leaving any state of pain, suffering, and creating a state of peace and contentment.

Note I’m not trying to manifest a new car or more money. I’m also not trying to bolster my ego by telling myself how great I am, nor am I trying to practice some bullshit self-improvement technique. For me, meditation is not some tool I use to create a better version of myself or God forbid correct all my faults. As the Buddha taught pain and suffering exists all around us as an innate result of experiencing life. I prefer even if it is only during my meditation session to create a state of no pain, no suffering, only peace, and contentment. You might view this as an escape from life, but I contend it is more than that. I’ve come recently to experience my meditation practice as more of a revelation of what is truly authentic. Maybe another way to put it is that through meditation I am experiencing my most authentic self. I’m not saying meditation is the only way to be more like who you really are, but it is certainly one of the best ways. Most other activities in life have you playing a role, trying to gain something, achieve a goal, satisfying some desire, or are generally concerned with improving some aspect of your life by doing stuff. You know, the way we spend the vast majority of your days.

Most human beings are very goal oriented always seeking to improve themselves, gaining some satisfaction from checking off one goal after another on the list, but strangely enough still largely unsatisfied with their existence. This strong attraction to acquiring things and the subsequent brainwashing that has occurred over the many hundreds or years has done nothing to nurture our true nature or foster even a modicome of self awareness. If someone deviates from path (norm) they are either lazy or insane by the standards of society. Meditation and the use of mantras can help you undo some of this conditioning. The Buddha provided the Noble Eightfold Path as a means of escaping all this self induced suffering. Regarding meditation and the discovery of your true self the focus should be on right mindfulness and right concentration.

Other mantras I’ve used in addition the afore mentioned one includes:

Zazen is life

I am here, I am present

I am happy to be alive today

I give thanks for the Buddha, I give thanks for the Dhamma, and I give thanks for the Sangha

If I have any advice it would be to not make your mantra too complex. Shorter phrases fit better within the span of a breath and can be more impactful. You can also intersperse periods of just observing your breathing and when the monkey mind begins to take over, go back to your mantras.

Namaste

In the Buddha’s Words

Inspirational Book Reviews

Summary

This review of “In the Buddha’s Words” will undoubtedly be a bit longer than many of my other posts. If you haven’t guessed by now I am more than a little interested in Buddhism, which you can find out more about on my other blog thestoicbuddhist. I have the soft cover version of the book, which is 485 pages. The books has high quality print and the font is not too small, making it very readable. The book starts out with a forward by the Dalai Lama, then a preface, list of abbreviations, key to pronunciation in Pali, and a detailed list of the contents of the book. This is a scholarly explanation and exploration of discourses in the Pali Canon. The book is divided into 10 sections and each section includes a somewhat lengthy introduction that helps provide a better understanding of the the text in the…

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Balance Restored

One of my recent blog posts was aptly named Unbalanced. In this post I wrote about how over time your work life can go terribly wrong in the sense that it becomes your whole life. While for some people this may be fine, but for me it was a form of hell on earth. Much like addictions this working all the time lifestyle creeps up on you over time. In Unbalanced I mentioned there were three options:

  1. Accept and Adapt
  2. Do Nothing
  3. Extricate yourself from the situation

I chose number one, allowing a little acceptance and making some adaptations. First off let me say I am a huge fan of Buddhism, Stoicism, Yoga, and meditation; practicing each of these on a daily basis. The problem is no matter how much you read or spend time meditating you cannot escape the chaos that often ensues on a daily basis during your work day. I’m not saying that it doesn’t help, but it cannot by itself save you. You might be saying well your the Stoic Buddhist, so what the hell! My response is don’t stop your practice, in the end it will improve all aspects of your life, but it only marginally helps you deal with some shit show at work.

Well as I mentioned I choose door number one to practice some acceptance for the situation and then make a few adaptations so that I might make things more bearable.

I like this Anthony Hopkins quote as he lets you know that other peoples opinions of you are of no concern, and that expecting nothing and accepting everything may serve you well. While this is a great mantra to live by, it does not preclude you from taking action. This is where the adaptation comes in. This is the Merriam Webster definition of Adaptaption.

adaptation

Essential Meaning of adaptation

1: something that is adapted especiallya movie, book, play, etc., that is changed so that it can be presented in another form. His stage adaptation of the novel was a success.The film is an adaptation of a book of the same title.

2: a change in a plant or animal that makes it better able to live in a particular place or situation. The insect’s evolutionary adaptations enable it to be almost invisible even when sitting in the middle of a leaf.

3: the process of changing to fit some purpose or situation the process of adapting a tool designed for easy adaptation

I would suggest that number two and three apply in this case. With acceptance you begin to achieve number two, allowing you to better live in a particular place or situation. While acceptance is awesome you also need to actively manage the situation. So making some changes to the way you approach your work allows you to adapt to the situation much easier.

Well all this leads us to adapting the way you approach this situation, in this case your workaholic tendencies and ways to alleviate the negative narrative you have about it.

  • If you start with I expect nothing and accept everything you relieve yourself of trying to control it all and stop judging it as a negative experience. Lets face it there are a lot of things that are out of our control and when we worry, resent, become angry, or provide any kind of emotional response to these situation we are opening the door for more suffering.
  • Another method that helps you adapt to all the annoying shit at work is to stop giving a fuck about everything. If someone says something demeaning or criticizes your work you can get upset and at the time if might deeply offend you, but you really don’t know their motives and in many ways you should not give a fuck. Save your energy for the things you really care about and stop letting all the other crap make you crazy.
  • The last little tip that helped me was to set some limits around your free time. This might include not attending every meeting you are invited to, or getting the administrative stuff done on Friday so you don’t have to work on the weekend. Look for ways to begin balancing work with your personal time. You might even take a day off now and then. We all think what we do is so important and without us the world will come to the end and your project will fail without your 24 hour a day monitoring. Once you realize that none of this is true, you begin to give yourself some freedom and the job that was killing you no longer seems so daunting.

When it is all said and done your job is really not all that important and you are not that important to your employer. Maybe what is important to you is doing quality work that you enjoy or realizing your efforts at work are contributing to your family. Find those 2 or 3 things you really value and let those provide some level of satisfaction. As I’ve mentioned before when you start caring about everything you are on the road to becoming a workaholic and ultimately experiencing burnout.

If you just can’t adapt and the situation at work is not improving you can always find a way to exit. This might mean taking another position in your own company, or asking for a different assignment, and if all else fails finding a new job. In this job market anyone with the right skills is now calling the shots and there are a lot of opportunities to be found. Remember self torture by trying to endure a situation beyond a reasonable amount of time is not your best choice.

Namaste

The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck

My latest book review. Let me know what you think.

Inspirational Book Reviews

Overview

Well here we go again, another book making use of the word Fuck. You might remember another book review I did on Unfu*ck Yourself by Gary John Bishop. This book The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck by Mark Manson was a book I read partially a couple years ago. More recently I ran into a review of this book on YouTube by the author and decided to give it another try. It turns out this book is pretty good and kind of got me out of a funk I was feeling.

Don’t let the title fool you, it’s not about meandering your way through life and not giving a shit about anything, far from it. One of the key messages is stop giving a fuck about everything. When you give a fuck about all the little things in life, you lose focus on what is really important…

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Unbalanced

Guess where this is going?

It has been a while, in fact I think my last post was in June. What the hell! The topic for today is unbalanced, which is the reason I haven’t written anything in so long. About six weeks ago I made a decision to take on what became a monumental endeavor at work. The whole thing imploded and became what a friend of mine in the Netherlands calls a shit show. A shit show if you didn’t know is pretty much synonymous with a disaster. What started as a seemingly good idea to up my game and take on a new challenge, quickly eroded into some form of torture. Now I’m no stranger to hard work, but the kind of hours I was putting in became a bit absurd after a while. The first 3 weeks were 75-80 hours per week, including working weekends.

After a few weeks of this, which forced me to skip pretty much all forms of exercise; not only was I mentally drained, but I also wasn’t feeling very well. There is always a fine line between working extremely hard and taking care of yourself and I had crossed the line into burnout land. I’m sure you have experienced this before, when you reach that point almost anything can piss you off. You are so mentally and physically tired that your emotions, not the good ones begin to surface. The worst of it all was I didn’t enjoy any of it. I took a trip to Florida to meet with some of my team mates and our customer, and not once did we go out to eat together. After workshops during the day with my customer, I would go back to the hotel room to work and grab something to eat at Publix or Subway by myself. What I began to realize is that 14-16 hour work days are unsustainable, well least for me.

So why am I telling you all this? It kind of sets the stage for what happened next. It became clear to me that I needed to take back my life, so after about 4 weeks I decided I had enough, took a Friday off and started to limit how much I would work on the weekend. We did bring in some additional help, which allowed me to not be responsible for nearly everything and that certainly helped. The thing is everyone gets to a point where enough is enough, and you figure out ways to scale down the hours or you do yourself serious harm. This is usually a choice unless your in a prison or concentration camp. It wasn’t like I freed myself from the situation, but what I did was make it a bit more manageable. The fact that 8 weeks later it’s still a shit show and I am deeply engaged says something about how stubborn I am or my lack of intelligence.

This kind of sums it up.

You always have a choice to leave the situation, adapt and accept it, or do nothing, but that really doesn’t work except in extremely rare situations where leaving or adapting are not really an option. Doing nothing will just result in burnout and really is a form of self destruction. When I say accept it, I mean you are willing to adapt, but not in a passive way. You have chosen to stay, stick it out, or whatever you want to call it, but with some conditions. Please distinguish between adapting including some acceptance and doing absolutely nothing. If down the line things don’t get better than you need to figure out an exit strategy; life is way to short to stay in a shit show indefinitely.

Namaste

The Question You Must Ask Yourself

This post will be purposely short and to the point. It originates from a bit of journaling this morning. I like to start my day with a grateful practice, but my thoughts often turn to other questions about the meaning of our existence on this planet. Enough said, here is the journal from this morning:

Journal Entry

I am grateful for being alive today, and having the opportunity to live a more fulfilling life.

The question you must ask yourself is what is the purpose of all this? What do you mean by living a more fulfilling life?

Why am I here? Is it to fulfill a destiny, serve others, or to master my own philosophy?

Maybe it is all or none of the above. Maybe it’s as the Buddha taught to end suffering.

Whose suffering? Your own and all sentient beings.

How? For me it must be by writing and actions.

It’s not much of a reach to say we all have more than one purpose for living and these can be noble or selfish, or even some combination of the two. As humans we are fairly complex, possessing desires, dreams, and sometimes selfless motives for what we do.

There are many noble reasons to exist including:

  • Service to your community
  • Taking care of your family
  • Showing compassion for others
  • Being more mindful and spiritual
  • Becoming a better human being through philosophy

On the other side of the coin exists our selfish or negative motives:

  • The accumulation of wealth and material things
  • Sensory desires like sex, drugs, drinking, etc.
  • The desire to punish, belittle, and criticize those that are different from us
  • Wrong thought such as anger, hate, or envy
  • A preponderance of ego; thinking you are better than everyone else

The selfless or noble motives for your life result in happiness and the selfish in destruction. The choice is always yours alone.

Namaste

Meditation – Expectations

I have written a number of posts on meditation including Meditation Experiences Uno, Meditation Experiences Dos, Meditation Experiences Tres, and Meditation Experiences Cuatro. All of these were my personal experiences of meditation and to some degree outlining the benefits that you might be able to experience yourself. Of course your experience during meditation and afterwards may vary. One of the things that happens when you start meditating on a regular basis is that you may begin to develop expectations. These expectations of a special experience or some sudden break through, maybe even enlightenment may cause you to view your practice as a tool or some means to and end.

In the tradition of Zen Buddhism having some grand expectation for each meditation session is frowned upon. You should just sit in Zazen, expecting nothing, with your focus on being present. In a world that is dominated by activity, doing things, getting shit done; this might be very difficult for us. We typically spend most of our time thinking about what we are going to do in the future, that we often cannot make ourselves present in the now. If everything you do in your life must be in support of some goal or to satisfy some desire, meditating will seem foreign and you will struggle to be present even for a few moments, though you sat for 20 minutes. You may even feel that why should I devote 10 or 20 minutes just sitting, when I could be doing something productive. What the hell have we become?

There is a quote from Gary John Bishop that anyone that meditates should take to heart. While the book Mr. Bishop wrote Unfu*k Yourself isn’t about meditation, it will make you think about how you are fucking up your life with thoughts of the past and future.

Let me wrap this up. If you really want to change the way you think about this world, you will need to drop all these expectations and stop living in the future or even worse in the past. A consistent meditation practice will help you live in the present and change some these preconceived notions you have established over your lifetime. In a sense there is a war to be waged. There is the real you, a person with inherent Buddha nature and there is you that has been constructed over a lifetime. Choose the present moment without expectations or continue living imprisoned in the future, it’s all your choice.

Namaste

I have another blog where I review some pretty interesting books, check it out.

Inspirational Book Reviews

Freedom

If it is freedom that you seek, then you are in the company of billions of other people. We think that freedom can be found primarily by removing responsibility. Many view this as financial freedom, freedom to purchase anything we want, or being free to do anything we want. This kind of freedom is a pipe dream for most and is just another stroll down the path of materialism. To equate this type of freedom with the real freedom that only exists between your ears is nothing more than bullshit. We live in a world that thinks if I acquire enough money, then I can do whatever I want with my time. Think of all the actors, sports, and rock stars that accumulated great wealth, and ended up in an early grave to some degree as a result of this financial freedom. A life without purpose will soon lead to a life of excess. Listen, I’m not saying that it is a bad thing to acquire a certain level of financial freedom, but this kind of freedom does not equate to happiness.

There exists many of what I call fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of speech, freedom of choice in its various forms, freedom to vote, and freedom to choose what you do with your time on this earth. All of these are important, but are in a sense table stakes. Beyond the fundamental freedoms that most democracies attempt to offer is a much more precious freedom.

You will never be truly free until you gain some control over your thoughts. There is no real world that is completely stress free, free of responsibilities, free of pain, free of desire, or free of problems. Most people just seek to escape reality by taking vacations, drugs, alcohol, or any number of distractions. Been there, done that, and it really didn’t help, it was just piss poor attempts to turn off my thoughts. There are also those that use physical activity as a way of escaping. These might be runners, weight lifters, rock climbers, or even sky diving. While these are much healthier alternatives than the drug and alcohol route, they are still a temporary reprieve from a mind tortured by stress, anxiety, lust, or anger.

The end result of all of these attempts to escape your thoughts is that they still exist, and you have done nothing to change them. Any real freedom from your monkey mind can only exist in meditation. During meditation you can become truly free and begin to realize the Buddha nature that exists in all of us.

It is these little glimpses of freedom that you experience during meditation that gradually changes the way you view the world and thus changes the way you think. Don’t get hung up on the process or type of meditation, just sit and concentrate on your breathing. Start with 10 minutes and gradually work your way up to sitting for 20 minutes per session on a daily basis. If you think that spending 20 minutes a day meditating is wasting time, then you are still operating in the wrong paradigm. There really is no better use of your time than to meditate and once you have experienced it over even a short period of time like a couple weeks the freedom you were seeking will be yours.

Namaste

The Stoic Buddhist

Marcus Aurelius and the Buddha

I recently changed my byline to The Stoic Buddhist and you may ask why? It is partially due to the many books I have read on Buddhism and Stoicism. So one reason is the interest I have in both philosophies, but as my studies progressed I started noticing some pretty interesting similarities. In this blog post I just want to focus on a couple of the things stoics and Buddhist’s have in common.

Well back to the question about the byline. This will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for me one can embrace multiple philosophies and sometimes even just certain tenants. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Both Buddhism and Stoicism have always encouraged independent thinking analyzing what you feel is true and real in the world. I doubt that the Buddha would have objected too much if someone wanted to read the works of Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, or Epictetus. Both Stoicism and Buddhism take an analytical approach to philosophy as opposed to a faith based approach of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. Buddha was not a God and either was Marcus Aurelius or Seneca, and in the case of the stoics far from it. So in my life and studies I borrow from both, calling myself a Buddhist first and foremost, that also has a keen interest in stoicism.

Two of the more common themes that I noticed in both Stoicism and Buddhism are about desiring less and not fearing death.

Desire

Both Buddhism and Stoicism teach that there is inherent suffering involved with desires. The more you desire the more unhappy you will be, ever wanting more. The Buddha taught that the root of suffering was desire and Epictetus equates freedom to limiting what you desire.

Another quote from Marcus Aurelius speaks to the idea that very little is needed to be happy.

Actually Marcus Aurelius wrote extensively in his book Meditations about the need to control ones desires and the destructive nature of vices and materialism. As you know this was a Roman Emperor who could have had anything he wanted, but practiced a huge amount of self control in the way he lived. I think both the Stoics and Buddhists recognized that desires led to excesses, creating suffering and ultimately preventing one from leading a more noble existence.

Death

It is my understanding that both Stoicism and Buddhism viewed death as a natural part of life and not to be feared. With that said the Buddhist might believe that you will be reborn into another life; the Stoic will just state that this death is part of natures life cycle and your body is given to the earth. In either case as a Stoic or a Buddhist you will be expected to not fear death, to be courageous, and calm upon your demise.

Whether a Stoic or a Buddhist it is not death to be concerned with, but rather how well you have lived. Was the life you had meaningful and of service to mankind? To the stoic philosopher or a dedicated Buddhist a life satisfying selfish desires is a life wasted and not worth living. Another similarity between the Stoic and Buddhist view of death is that it begins when we are born with each day we die a little bringing us that much closer to our final demise.

Below is a quote from the Buddha from the Pali Canon , Sali Sutta that illustrates the nature of life and death.

From Marcus Aurelius a quote on the inevitability of death and our response to it.

While this by no means is meant to provide any kind of exhaustive comparison between similar views shared by Stoics and Buddhists, I wanted it to be more of an introduction to the idea that there are some aspects of the two philosophies that they have in common. As death pursues us all I hope there will be time to go into a more detailed analysis of where the two philosophies converge.

There is no way of cheating nature of our own inevitable destiny. We all will face death, some sooner, some later, but it will surely come. With that in mind whether you are a Stoic or a Buddhist; it is all up to you to live an authentic life and cherish each day.

I’ll leave you with a final quote from Seneca.

“You want to live-but do you know how to live? You are scared of dying-and, tell me, is the kind of life you lead really any different from being dead?”

Namaste

How the wise view time

I don’t know when it all started maybe a couple years ago, but I came to the realization that my time on this earth was limited. This begins to happen for most of us once we realize what is left in terms of years is only a fractional portion of the time we have already lived. This only becomes more acute as you progress from your 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and so on. It’s not so much anxiety, but it becomes more of a value proposition, weighing the value of time against the way you live your life. You begin to question how you are spending your time and why you spend this limited time working at a job that maybe pays well, but doesn’t support the value of time paradigm that you now find yourself so acutely aware of.

Maybe you find yourself trading that precious commodity, your time for the accumulation additional wealth. I think this is a trigger for a lot of people in their 50’s and 60’s who begin thinking about retirement. You begin to realize the opportunity cost of staying at your less than fulfilling job. You become preoccupied thinking of all the things you want to do that you just don’t have time to pursue. I know for myself things like a career path, promotions, and all those other things that seemed important in my 40’s occupy little space in my mind today. This understanding of the value of time, which you should have had all along becomes so much more important than the accumulation of wealth and the agony that often accompanies it. Instead of mellowing out as we age, we often become less tolerant of the bullshit and wish for more autonomy and freedom to pursue what really matters to us.

The feeling of regret for not realizing this long ago comes up and you may feel you have wasted years or even decades running on the hamster wheel for monetary rewards. Then again maybe you have had a great career, but realize it’s time to pack it in and start something new. In either case you are faced with the decision to keep doing the same old thing or break free and use the remaining days, months, or years to do something else. If you are a fan of the stoics you will find a lot of material devoted to death and the importance of living life in a meaningful way. One of my favorite quotes is from Marcus Aurelius:

Don’t let your fears or habits dictate how you will live your life. Be like the wise person and give your time the value it so rightly deserves.

Namaste