Love Impermanence

We live our lives seeking situations or things that are permanent. This might include a relationship, a profession, investments, our bodies, or beliefs. It is human nature to plan for the future seeking a sense of certainty as if we had control over the present or the future. Here is one of my favorite quotes by Thich Nhat Hanh:

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist, founder of the Plum Village Tradition. One of the primary tenants of Buddhism is impermanence. Impermanence is the lack of permanence, or the fact that everything is changing, thus nothing is really permanent or even certain. I guess if there is any certainty it would be that nothing is permanent. As you are reading this your body is changing, the weather is changing, even our own most strongly held beliefs are under siege. Because of impermanence our plans for the future are at best a wish and in reality are extremely uncertain.

If you can accept that everything is impermanent you will begin to free yourself from worrying about your problems. If everything is impermanent than so is your pain and suffering. That situation that is causing you so much grief is likely to change and you will inherent a new problem to worry about. Flip the coin and the joy you feel today may be replaced by pain tomorrow, or by some other form of happiness. You might be thinking well all this in not very comforting and what am I to do about this impermanent life of mine? The answer is that there is nothing for you to do. If you need to do anything it would be to simply accept impermanence and live in the present moment.

Listen, I’m not saying you should not make plans, but any plan you make must include some flexibility due to the fact that whatever you have planned will likely need to change. Working towards a goal you have can be a wonderful thing, but then impermanence steps in and what you are working for may no longer be possible to achieve. Remember impermanence does not equate to something negative and in fact it often will result in new opportunities that avail themselves if you are willing to embrace uncertainty and drop your bullshit adherence to the plan you have in your head.

Let’s say you have this job working for some corporation and your plan is to work there for the next 5 years and then retire. However your company begins losing market share and they have to eliminate your high paid position. You could be angry, start blaming the company or yourself, and have a nice pity party and this might be something you decide to keep doing for the foreseeable future. For someone who embraces impermanence this kind of reaction to the situation would be impossible. The person that accepts uncertainty would say Fuck it and move on. The plan you had is no longer valid, but you think well let’s take a look at this world of possibilities and act upon some other interests you have. I have personally been in similar situations and every time a door closed, another one opened and the change only enhanced my life. This is why I love impermanence because when you embrace it you learn and grow as a person, you become unstuck. Here is another quote from Thich Nhat Hanh:

Learn to love impermanence and all will be well with you.

Namaste

 

The Current Expectation

The Happiness Movement

There is a movement in recent times that sets an expectation that we can live a life filled with happiness. Gretchen Rubin wrote a book a few years back called the “Happiness Project” where she expounds on a number of ways to increase your level of happiness. We are constantly subjected to a barrage of advertising that shows us how happy people are with that new car, drinking beer at the beach, or taking expensive vacations to Caribbean. All of these things advocate living a lifestyle that will make us happy forever more. There is a high expectation that if you just buy this, learn this, or do this activity happiness will follow.

corona beach

Unfortunately a consistent state of happiness is probably an illusion, and thinking that it is achievable may be somewhat dangerous to enjoying life. What I mean by this is that you are setting an expectation that is not achievable and this will actually cause you to think something is wrong with you if you are not in a constant state of bliss.

Each of us face so many challenges in our life such as health issues, family strife, making a living, and the list goes on and on. Do you really expect that you will feel happy during what are often very negative events that occur? You need to give yourself the opportunity to feel angry, sad, frustrated, inpatient, as these events unfold. That doesn’t mean you wallow in your pain and conduct a lifelong pity party, but allow yourself some time to express your feelings.

“Life is not a big long beer commercial, much of living is also filled with struggle and challenging situations”.

While it is true you can emerge from a painful situation, stronger and wiser, you may even learn something from it, but you will not be in some state of continuous euphoria.

Instead of expecting a life filled with happiness whatever that really means, be realistic and expect that your emotions will rise and fall like the tide. I really like listening to speakers like Les Brown, Tony Robbins, Bob Proctor, Esther Hicks, Mel Robbins, and Jim Rohn; these people are very motivating and can give you some great tips for being more successful and effective in life. Things like the Law of Attraction and the 5 second rule are great tools for enhancing your life, but like any tool it will have its limitations. Most of the time I hover somewhere in between happiness and sadness, somewhere in the middle, not overcome by either emotion.

My parting advice would be:

  • Feel Happy
  • Feel Sad
  • Feel Angry
  • Feel Pain
  • Feel Frustrated
  • Feel Love
  • Live in the Moment

Just don’t fall into the trap that your life should be one where you are in some heightened state of happiness all the time.

Root of Our Suffering

A certain amount of our life is dealing with pain, it happens to all of us, and we can avoid the suffering associated with it, but it is a difficult thing to do. I like the quote below because it resonates with me. I make no claims to have eliminated all attachment in my life, but I agree it is often the source of suffering.

Root of suffering

Namaste

 

A few ways to be happier

Happiness the minions

If you asked most people what their ultimate goal in life is, probably 90% would say to be happy. Why is being happy such an elusive state of mind for most of us? We struggle to make money, raise a family, buy houses and cars, and with all that we still don’t find a whole lot of happiness in our lives. Over the past 10 years I have tried a lot of things to increase my level of happiness and I wanted to share a few of those things that actually worked for me. So here are few things you might try:

  • If you’ve read posts on my blog, you know I’m a big fan of practicing yoga. It is not only physically challenging, but it also helps you become calmer and more mindful.
  • Meditation is great for clearing the mind, overcoming negative thoughts, and setting yourself up for a great day.
  • Adopt a positive philosophy like the Law of Attraction, Buddhism, or any spiritual practice. You will approach each interaction from a positive perspective instead of reacting negatively to situations. Choose something that works for you. I personally study the Law of Attraction and Buddhism, both have contributed to my piece of mind.
  • Quit caring about everything. I mean it, we all get wrapped up in stupid little things that won’t matter a week, a month, or a year from now. Make what and who you care about a select group, and adopt an attitude of I don’t give a shit about the rest.
  • Stop doing things you hate. I can’t tell you how many people I know go through their work day as a zombie, no smiling, no laughing, and it is all drudgery. You were not meant to live that way. Find a way to do something you can get excited about. Look for a way to transition to something better, and in the mean time do the things above and at least you will view the world in a positive way and get some enjoyment out of your current situation.
  • Last but not least, develop a gratitude practice. A truly grateful person will appreciate what they have and all the good things that are to come.

Namaste

 

 

 

 

The Eightfold Path

If you have read any of my earlier posts you were exposed to the Four Noble Truths and each of the steps in the Eightfold Path. I like to look at the Eightfold Path as the process and guidance that can help you end suffering and lead an ethical life. I attempted to provide some detail about each of the steps in the Eightfold Path that relate to living in this world, although what the Buddha taught is as applicable in this age as it was then. As I studied each of the steps I found the concepts to be fairly straightforward, but difficult to implement. The benefits far out way the challenges, and it may take years before you master all the steps, or you may already be living a life that puts you very close to attaining enlightenment. Of course there is no specific time table for any of us, and the journey should be viewed as a great reward unto itself. You can read about each of the steps in the path by following these links:

  1. Right View
  2. Right Intention
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Concentration

nobleeightfoldpathbyajourneyintobuddhism

I hope this post will help you has it has helped me be more centered and live in the present. I am still working on each of these steps, and need to review them periodically as my own journey has just begun.

Namaste

 

Right Concentration

The last step in the Eightfold Path is right concentration. Once we use right mindfulness to become aware of what is going on around us, we can then use right concentration to focus on whatever we desire. We can use right concentration to focus on any object which gives us an understanding of the object as it actually is not what we previously perceived it to be.

Use right concentration to focus on things, with the benefit that you are now living in the present, freeing you from worries of the past and future. Practicing right mindfulness and right concentration is essential to meditation, awareness, and focus in your life.

To practice right concentration you might spend a few minutes focusing your eyes and mind on:

  • A full or half moon
  • The stars
  • A candle
  • Water as in a river, lake, or ocean
  • A plant or tree
  • An animal, reptile, or insect
  • A figurine of the Buddha

These are just examples, really anything that appears interesting to you could become a target of your focus. In this act of concentration you are in fact meditating. Later on you might turn your attention from an object to a concept. You might focus your concentration on:

  • Compassion
  • Kindness
  • Love
  • Forgiveness
  • Tolerance

There are really no limits to using right concentration, other than you should use right concentration help you see things as they really are, and there needs to be a positive intent.

buddhism-philosophy-11-638

Namaste

Right Mindfulness

The seventh step on the Eightfold Path is Right Mindfulness. Right Mindfulness is about being aware of the world around you and focusing on the present. For most of us this is very difficult to do, as we are always obsessing over what happened yesterday or what we need to do tomorrow.

right-mindfulness

Through Right Mindfulness we are looking to create a greater awareness of everything around us, not hiding from it, but fully absorbing it. We are seeking to understand our true nature by being fully aware. Right Mindfulness then also implies focus and concentration. Maybe you have found this through playing an instrument, writing, or playing sports. This was a time when you were totally focused on one thing, in the zone if you will. The question for us is are there ways we can cultivate Right Mindfulness? Let me give you a few examples of simple ways that at least might set the stage for it:

  • When you go to a meeting leave your phone at your desk.
  • When you are talking with someone, stop and listen to them instead of formulating what you want to say next.
  • If you are reading at home turn off the television.
  • Turn your phone to silent mode, and stop looking at it every 5 minutes.
  • Turn off email notifications.
  • Go take a walk and use your eyes and ears.
  • Stop worrying about the future, it will soon be here, and worrying is pointless.
  • Seek out a hobby or activity that requires concentration as this will help  you focus on the present.

If you like to worry about the future, remember there is no better preparation for the future than to be completely focused on the present. Great things are accomplished now, not yesterday, or tomorrow.

Right Mindfulness can lead to an uncluttered mind and this sets the stage for the ability to focus on the present. In my next post I will write about Right Concentration.

Namaste

 

Right Effort

The sixth step in the Eightfold Path is Right Effort. What are some of the attributes of Right Effort?

  • Enthusiasm
  • Positive Thinking
  • Honesty
  • Cheerful Determination
  • Not being impatient
  • Understanding that to follow the way is a marathon not a sprint

Applying right effort requires a dogged determination to follow the way especially during difficult times in our life. Plowing ahead towards our goal and using the Eightfold Path to lead us forward. You probably know people like this that are always moving forward with a positive attitude, not mired down in self pity. A Buddhist understands that life has its ups and downs, but by living with right effort they will ride out the storm and continue their journey down the path overcoming the causes of suffering.

Remember right effort will increase happiness, make you more effective in a non spiritual sense, and help attract the best things to your life. As you become more effective at practicing right effort you will notice that you are not only enhancing your own piece of mind but, you will have the power to positively influence others.

In my next post I will write about Right Mindfullness.

buddhism-philosophy-right-effort

Namaste