Month: April 2021

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