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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

It's Not Up To Me

What a freeing concept it was that the world was not resting on my shoulders anymore. I no longer was responsible for anything but my actions. If things go wrong then it's not meant to be, and to move on instead of wallowing in what might have been.

Lately I've been struggling in every area all at the same time, and have really taken this whole idea to heart, doing what I can and seeing where things fall. Me and my husband did not speak for over a week and now seem to be okay again. My debts are sky-high and was recently dragged back into court once again. On top of everything, the job thing seems to be not working out too well. But my mindfulness training teaches me to view things as neutral instead of positive or negative.

On a whim, I applied for a job overseas. It's not up to me, it's way over my head, and I probably won't get it anyway.

Next thing I know, an email arrives asking for an interview that afternoon. I agreed, and answered the phone hesitantly when Washington was calling. After fumbling my way through the interview, not really sure about working in a warzone for a year and living on a military base, there was no hope of working there.

The following Monday, I received an email asking for me to think over the position and take my time answering. I accepted. If the company gets the contract, in one month I will be getting ready for the trip of a lifetime.

When I hated life this never would have happened. It just goes to show what does happen when you get up every day and put one foot in front of the other, doing the best you can.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


"I have been to Sorrow's Kitchen
and have licked all the pans dry."
-Zora Neale Hurston

It has been a while since the pains of sorrow have touched me as much as they did over the weekend. I am separated from someone I love very much, for the simple reason that our lifestyles are not compatible.

Even though he has stopped by several times since he left a month ago, this weekend was like I was seeing him for the first time. He looked horrible. He also did not follow-through on a promise and I was devastated.

I cried for what seemed to be like eternity. It was a gut-wrenching feeling, with sorrow coming from the deepest depths of my soul. That's why this quote hit me so hard. When I heard it, shivers when down my spine and the hair on my arms stood straight up.

Yes, I too have been to Sorrow's Kitchen and have tasted the bitterness of a love that just doesn't seem to work, no matter how hard we try.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

poverty is a choice, money is a burden

It's interesting that monastics must take a vow of poverty. Catholic nuns do it verbally, and Buddhist monks are only allowed few possessions.

Living in a capitalist society, the choice to be without money seems backwards to the way things should be, but our spiritual heroes, like Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama, must do this in order to enter their chosen profession.

The Bible teaches that one cannot serve both money and God. Buddhist philosophy teaches that money can create unhealthy attachments, which are a way to run away from one's self. Yet society fills our mailboxes with sale papers and credit card pre-approvals, enticing us to shop ourselves into financial ruin.

I recently made the decision to leave my job to pursue employment that was more along the lines of what suits my creative nature. Working at the food stamp office was difficult and dealing with despair on a daily basis finally took its toll after two long years.

I plunged headfirst into self-employment and the poverty that ensues, vaguely aware of the looming recession and the price of gas climbing towards the outer reaches of heaven. And though homelessness seems to be looming in my future on an almost daily basis, somehow the rent gets paid.

To tell you the truth, I don't miss the choices that money brings. Life may have been full of options back then, but the pursuit of buying more nice things kept me from appreciating what I already had. It was a never-endng cycle, consuming and acquiring but never feeling fulfilled. And even though paying bills and dealing with the occasional shut-off notice from the electric company are not very enjoyable, somehow all my needs are met.

God provides for me what money cannot. I never knew I was trying to serve two masters, and my attachment to money was keeping me from enjoying what life has to offer. And though the choice of poverty is most definitely the hard road, the burden of money has been lifted, for now.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

a clear conscience

"The softest pillow we could ever have is a clear conscience"
-Ed M.

I had the privilege to see Ed speak yesterday at a church in my new hometown. He told his story of hate and redemption and it almost moved me to tears.

And though he said a million things that really touched me in a few sweet, short hours, the one thing that struck me most is what he said about the conscience.

It struck a cord deep in my soul that is still singing to me over 24 hours later. The gift of a clear conscience is one of the greatest things God has blessed me with these past few years, and it took much work to get there.

Even at 21 years old, full of the rebelliousness and invincible attitude that comes with that age, I was carrying around a lifetime of baggage behind me. Thank God it got too heavy to carry.

Others have dropped their baggage, too. But the old feelings, attitudes and behaviors fit like an old pair of tennis shoes every time they heave the bags back on their shoulders once more. The scariest part of it is that everyone can tell that they're back in chaos except the ones carrying the bags.

So a clear conscience is a soft pillow. Sleeping is easy when the pillow is soft and the heart is empty of burden. This is why we practice forgiveness. I believe is was Old St. Francis who put it best: "It is by forgiving that one is forgiven."

Amen to that one.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Love is the only thing that's real

"Love is the only thing that's real. Everything else is an illusion."
--Marianne Williamson

In Return to Love, Marianne Williamson shares her reflections on A Course in Miracles with us. I was inspired to learn that she did not go to Harvard and that her success is based on her desire to live a spiritual life.

The premise of A Course in Miracles is that things manifest out of either the Holy Spirit (or whatever you like to call it) or the Ego. The Ego is a negative entity that creates fear rather than love.

Since God is love, love is therefore the only thing that's real and fear is an illusion created by the Ego to keep us away from love. This means that every negative thing I see is created by my own mind (ego) and I have to ask God to correct my perceptions in order to get past it.

This statement is both simple and powerful, and I am using it in my own life to keep me from being unhappy. I have a lot of difficult things going on in my life right now. By using mindfulness, I am able to view them as neutral rather than positive or negative.

This change in perspective helps keep things from getting too overwhelming. When I am upset, I now ask for my perceptions to be corrected, which is also a Buddhist tool as well. Mindfulness teaches us that life is an exercise in perceptions and in order to experience mudita in the here and now we need to focus on the joyful things in life.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Self-Fulfillment through Self-Employment

On Monday morning I woke up and decided to call in to work, dreading another day of low pay and high stress. I reached for my cell phone to call my supervisor and it was dead. At that moment I decided to quit.

I didn't call in or show up. I was hoping that I would get fired so I could collect unemployment, but on Tuesday I had a voicemail from my supervisor saying that she was worried.

I went to the library and emailed my resignation. I was tired working with poor people and not being able to help them. I was tired of working for low pay and great benefits, saying to myself that somehow, someday I would be able to be my own boss.

Why not today?

Thich Nhat Hanh talks about compartmentalization, where one separates their lives into many different little lives.

My work life over here, my spiritual life over there, my family life way off in the distance somewhere. But if spirituality is a journey to wholeness, than the goal is to integrate all my little lives into one. So I trust that the same principles I use in my family and spiritual life also apply in my career.

I am exploring the idea of self-employment as self-fulfillment, and I have gotten mixed reactions from the people I have shared this with so far. I want to be true to my beliefs, even in business.

Mahatma Gandhi says that "business without morality" is one of the "seven deadly social sins."

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Many Paths to Enlightenment

At sangha a couple of weeks ago we had an interesting discussion about why we are not all on the same path.

Because the sangha is open and free to all who are interested, there seems to be many drop-ins and drop-outs. A lovely lady whose name I do not recall shared how happy she is on her spiritual path and when she started she just knew she would be there for the rest of her life. I admired her stick-to-it-iveness, as I have been honored to cross paths with many such spiritual traditions on my road to englightenment but have never found one that I believed would be forever.

One woman spoke up and said that studying mindfulness makes her a better Christian. Another shared that Thich Nhat Hanh encourages us to go back to our "spiritual roots" and make peace with (or practice) the tradition you were born with. She went on to state that being Jewish and being Buddhist do not conflict with one another.

I myself have always been attracted to the serene nature of Buddhist philosophy. And living in Florida away from my Vietnamese family, listening to Thich Nhat Hanh on my iPod reminds me of home.

I went through a period of my life where I tried on religions as casually as one does clothing. I might put it on and look in the mirror, being careful that it fits. Maybe I'd even purchase and wear it several times. But eventually the clothing or the journey wears out and becomes threadbare, or even worse, sits in my closet for years having barely been used. So I go to the store for another one.

This consumer attitude to my spiritual journey, while seemingly negative, has had an impact on how I view the world. Being raised a Southern Baptist, I was taught that everyone was going to Hell but us. I was so naive about the tradition I was born into (Christianity), that until a couple of years ago I didn't even know that Catholics were Christians! By exploring what the world has to offer spiritually, I came to believe things that were very different thatn the way I was raised.

What's even more rewarding, is that I gained a respect and appreciation for people from all parts of the world without barely leaving my hometown of Washington DC. And I found a comfort in knowing that there are others who believe things I do, even if it is outside my hometown tradition.

But now I find myself wanting to go deeper spiritually than I ever have before, and I get overwhelmed by the choices available. So I go within, and realize that the seeds have already been planted in me, I must only nuture them in order to watch them grow.

As a Christian and a Buddhist, one of the best books to help me feel better about my spiritual choices is Living Buddha, Living Christ. Though I don't own a copy, just thinking about the title helps me remember that its okay to have more than one spiritual ancestor. When I first met my Vietnamese family, I was always intrigued how my aunt's mother prayed the rosary daily in French but would also chant in Vietnamese as she offered a plate of oranges to the Buddha on the kitchen table. Now I understand that there are many paths to enlightenment. It's okay to not choose between them.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Insights from a Day of Mindfulness

I wrote this poem while on a Day of Mindfulness Tampa Bay (my first):

emptying my mind of unhealthy attachments is my freedom from bondage.

"False evidence appearing real."

Good dharma, bad karma, I will see beyond duality.

Savoring the silence, embracing the stillness but holding nothing back.

I let go of my expectations and judgements of everything and everyone.

Breathing in, I call my body,

breathing out, I smile.

When the mind wanders I

simply call my attention

back to my breath.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Calling all Authors!

This is an open letter to the online dharma community:

I need help!

In order to keep this blog alive, I am calling on all wanna-be Buddhist Christian bloggers who are interested in writing for maha maitri.

This is a labor of love, and an exercise in sharing very personal beliefs with the whole world. Please email me if you're interested and I will make you a guest author.

I have one signed up so far, and am looking for many more.

Thanks for reading.

In Metta,

Happiness is Within Your Grasp

I don't remember where I came across this article, but I thought that it would serve as great encouragement for those of us who are new to the Way, or our scientist friends who are still on the fence.

It is amazing when you think about the whole concept, happiness as a science with a clear-cut path to get there. I myself am not a scientist, but have been blessed with many friends who are. Even the Dalai Lama himself spoke at the Science of Mind Conference in Washington, DC on his 70th birthday.

So, to happiness!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Accepting Compliments Gracefully

Ever been to a roast? No, not the thing your mom used to make for dinner, but an event where someone is the center of attention but everyone else is talking about them.

I recently was the speaker at an event where I didn't do so good due to my nervousness. So, instead of everyone talking about what I said, they all sat around and gave me compliments. Which left me really uncomfortable.

But then I began to realize something. I have worked really hard to get where I am, and people genuinely appreciate the influence I have had on their lives. So, I stopped shaking my head and burying my face in my hands when people were talking, and thanked them instead.

How often we want to focus on the bad and when someone says something nice about us, our negativity keeps us from accepting it gracefully.

The next time someone says something nice, just say thank you, with sincerity, no matter how uncomfortable it is. You deserve it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dealing with Anger

I just had an experience a couple of minutes ago that really sent me reeling...

A client of the website I work for requested an article written. I picked up the job, but realized there wasn't enough information to complete his request. I immediately sent him a message requesting more info four days ago, and today got a nasty message back.

I immediately wanted to shoot off a nasty message back in retaliation for the things he said. Instead, because I am mindful of the nasty things that anger can trigger me to do, I did not send a message.

Instead, I contacted the website I said I would like to give up the job due to the way I was treated, and calmly explained the situation using as little emotion as possible. And I started writing this post as a way to calm me down.

You see, anger is destructive. It's like pouring battery acid on my spirit. And I don't want to live that way today. The next time you become angry, try stopping instead of reacting, no matter what you want to do. Acting on your anger only fans the flames of negativity instead of putting them out.

Once you stop, take time to acknowledge the anger and look at the roots of it. Find out why you are angry, but instead of stuffing it down, embrace it. This is the first step in transforming your negative emotions.

Thich Nhat Hanh explains anger using the analogy of a knot. You must use mindfulness to untie the knot before it becomes tighter, or it will mess up your insides. If you have too many knots, you cannot allow maitri to flow freely through you.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

maha maitri around the world

One of the coolest things about the internet is it's worldwide reach. While most of the traffic to this site comes from the United States, I have seen hits from as far away as India, Switzerland, Germany and even Japan come walking through.

It's so easy to get caught up in our own little worlds, and the internet makes it so easy to realize that we are **NOT** the center of the universe (though I like to think so).

I've been around, but I wanted to monitor the traffic and make some small tweaks to the site that most of you won't even notice. But it's all about finding readers who identify and maybe find the courage one day to leave a comment or two on the board.

So, as they say in the rooms of twelve-step recovery groups everywhere...


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Managing Stress

In Buddhism, any form of stress, be it large or small, is called suffering. As an American, when I think of suffering, I think of death or some major trauma. But when I really think about it, even small stresses cause some type of suffering in my life. Even small things, when added together, can cause a major upheaval.

I think about the lawsuit that's pending against me and the added responsibilities at work. Throw a little newlywed syndrome on top, and sprinkle it with a little bit of low finances. And I turn into a stark raving maniac.

Thich Nhat Hanh talks about the realm of our personal lives as "our kingdom." He says that we are our own kings and queens of our kingdom, but sometimes we don't want to go there because there is too much suffering. But we must. The only way we are going to get better is if we do.

For the next couple of days, try unwinding and slowing down. Pick a relaxing ritual for yourself and indulge in it every night. Here are a few options to try. Try experimenting with works best for you.

1. Take a bath.
2. Spend 5 minutes breathing. It might take a couple of weeks for your mind to start to slow down, but you have to start somewhere!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Seeds of Change: Using Mindfulness to Change Bad Habits

Earlier in the month we talked about using your mindfulness to observe bad habits. If you haven't read the previous post already, spend a month observing yourself and write down things you want to change.

Even if you only did this a few days, most likely you have discovered some things about yourself you don't like. It's important not to wallow in shame and guilt; the point of this exercise was goal setting.

Now, go through your notes and pick a few choice things you want to change. You may already subconciously have started adjusting your behavior, but putting it in writing makes it a little more real. These are the things I observed about myself:

1. I waste time smoking when I could be walking at work.
2. I procrastinate on my writing projects and they end up late when
they don't have to be.
3. I overdrew on my bank account once.
4. I still haven't finished my brochure or gotten started on my website.

Notice these things are very specific. This month, we want to focus on good habits of others that we can adapt for ourselves. Ask people that seem like they've got it together how they do things related to what's on your list or anything else you observed you want to change.

Pick the most important thing that you've gotten good feedback on. Pray every morning for help with this situation. Write down things you can do to improve every night. Don't expect yourself to change instantly or become perfect all at once. Change takes time.

If you find yourself engaging in the same behavior, stop yourself when you're in the middle of it. Apologize if you are speaking to someone. Eventually it will become a working part of you and you will find yourself after a couple of months no longer engaging in whatever it is that's bothering you.

Don't give up! The most important thing is to pick yourself up and start again if you slip. Get support and find other people who are doing the same as you.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Materialism and Spirituality

People who live only for wealth come to the end of their lives as naked and emptyhanded as on the day they were born.
-Ecclesiastes 5:15 (NLT)

So why, do you ask, am I quoting the Bible on a blog about Buddhism and mindfulness?

Thich Nhat Hanh says that it is important to honor your spiritual ancestors, including the religion you were raised with. I consider myself a Christian Buddhist.

Now that we have taken care of that question, lets move on the subject of money.

How materialistic are you?

When I was younger, I used nice things to make myself feel better. I didn't believe much in anything spiritual, I was more concerned with the here and now. I thought that having a lot of money would give me confidence and make me happy. So I chased it. And chased it. And chased it.

What I came to discover was that I had a God-sized hole in my soul that I was trying to fill with worldly things. And it didn't work. I needed a spiritual solution to my problem.

Through prayer and meditation, I began to see why I did these things. Using mindfulness as a tool, I got down to the core of the problem. I was unhappy and felt alone, no matter how many people were around me.

I had to practice a spiritual way of life. I was happy to discover this didn't mean I had to give up my nice things. It just meant I had to shift my focus. Once I started asking for help every morning and giving thanks at night, my life began to change.

I realized that money, though it has always been an issue, was not going to make me happy. Slowly but surely, I began to look to the sky and pray and my life has radically changed. Try it some time. You'll be amazed at the results.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Doing What We Cannot Do

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
-Eleanor Roosevelt

Tonight was the first time I've read this quote in its entirety. Doing what I thought I cannot do has become my mantra over the past couple of years.

It's funny how I can go out into the world, help at least 50 people through traumas I've never experienced on a daily basis, get to work and leave on time without going more than 45 seconds over my scheduled breaks and lunch hour and seemingly spin the great big world on my itty bitty finger but the things that terrify me I say I cannot do.

Tonight I got into an arguement with my husband. It was a little misunderstanding, really, but all things I cannot do (like talk about my feelings) built up and now I sit here hitting myself with the stupid stick because I still haven't talked about what was on my mind.

After the arguement, we both cooled down a bit pretty quickly. But I must do the thing I think I cannot do it. Because with the help of my Higher Spirit, all things are possible.

Even though my mind is stewing over a number of things that are bothering me, the truth is, things aren't really that bad. But I have some work to do. And yes, even the big invincible woman I am gets afraid sometimes. Especially when my ego is involved. Especially when it involves those I love the most.

But my mindfulness already knows what to do. It has been telling me since that uncomfortable car ride home that I must walk through the fear and pray for the right words to come out of my mouth.

So pray for me tonight, send a good swift kick in the rear my way to pick up the shattered pieces of my fragile little ego and go apologize. We all need a little help sometimes.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Free from Pain

This week I found out a friend of mine has passed away. It was not a happy ending for him, and I was sad.

Then someone pointed out to me that he was now free from pain and in a better place. This made me feel better.

I remember how long and hard he suffered. He hated himself. He was ashamed. He asked me for help, but he was unable to do what he needed to in order to feel better.

By using mindfulness, I was able to see that his suffering is over. He is free. He can be reborn into a new life, with the opportunity to learn from the last. His life was not in vain.

When I feel like I am struggling, I think of my friend. I remember that I don't have to give up like he did. I can learn from his life without having to go far so down the scale. I can remember that everyday I live with a freedom that he never enjoyed.

What hurt me the most is that he never got the chance to feel free. But now I can remember that he is free from pain.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Mindfulness and the Art of Tea

As I sit here enjoying a cup of tea, I think about today's events and tomorrow's plans, eagerly awaiting my bed and another night of pleasant dreams.

Then, I remembered that I hadn't published a post on maha maitri since January 18th and it is almost the 25th.

As an American, I have always viewed tea as a beverage rather than an art form. But when I recently began reigniting my passion for a good cup of tea to finish off the night, mindfulness allowed me to see the art present in the chamomile flowers I was brewing.

I used to microwave a mug of water, throw in a couple of tea bags, and impatiently wait for them to steep. But my husband sometimes boils water for me on the stove, and it tastes so much better that way. So I began to boil my own.

I realized the love and care that goes into every glass. I have a system, and I don't stray from it often. I put the chamomile bags in the empty mug first now, along with just the right amount of raw Florida Palmetto honey.

Next comes the boiling water, the ice, and finally, the vanilla soy milk. I stir it all up with a wedding gift from a friend in Colorado, and I sit back and enjoy my cup of relaxation made to order.

Peace. Rest. After my tea, I always sleep well.

Do you have a nightly ritual to help you drift pleasantly to sleep?

Try a cup of sleepytime tea. You'll be happy you did.

Friday, January 18, 2008

welcome to maha maitri!

If you're looking for exploded view, you've found it. Exploded view is now maha maitri. As we learned in the Faces of Love posts, maitri is Sanskrit for "love" and maha means "great." We will be keeping the same address for now, and possibly moving to a new one later. The content nor the subject has changed, I am just looking for ways to improve the incoming traffic.

"exploded view" is actually a scientific diagram and many people stumble upon this site looking for an exploded view of a piece of electronic equipment, so I felt the name was a little deceptive, though that wasn't my intention.

We will also be getting a logo in the next few weeks, as well as a new site layout. This site is a labor of love right now, so progress is slow-going.


It Takes a Drop of Water to Create an Ocean: on Inter-Being

Many people think that they are too small and insignificant to make a difference in this world. They don't vote, volunteer, or do anything nice because they feel that only one person cannot make a dent in the world's problems.

While it is true that only one person cannot end world hunger or stop all the violence and war, your actions are important. Look at the US Presidential elections.

In the New Hampshire primary, Barack Obama was riding high from his win in the Iowa caucuses. Journalists and political analysts thought highly of his chances in New Hampshire, and pre-primary polls showed him with a pretty strong lead. But he didn't win.

Why, you ask?

The young people who so fervently revered him didn't bother to vote. They didn't think their waterdrop was enough to fill a big ocean like a presidential election. But it did.

While the race is far from over, it goes to show that the individual can make a difference. We are all one with each other, and our actions affect more than just ourselves, though we may not think so. This is at the core of the philosophy Thich Nhat Hanh describes as Interbeing.

What is Interbeing?

The basic theory is that all are one, one are all. While this may seem very broad, let us look at a tree.

The basic substance of the tree is common to all, we would call them "Tree Elements." But a tree by itself is not a tree. If we use mindfulness to look beyond the surface, we can see that a tree is made up of "non-tree elements."

For example, without the sunshine, seed, gardener, or soil in which the tree grows, the tree would not exist. This state is described as Interbeing. Any one thing is dependant on the other, so we are all connected to and responsible for each other.

Though Interbeing may seem to be very simple when explained this way, there are many facets to this type of philosophy. We begin to see how selfishness creates negative consequences for others where we haven't seen it before. We can use this insight to change our behavior to be more kind to the earth and each other.

Some ways to practice Interbeing are:

1. Plant a tree.
2. Stop littering.
3. Volunteer at your local Boys and Girls Club.
4. Smile at everyone you see today.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Faces of Love: Upekka

Practicing the Immeasurable Mind of Equanimity extinguishes hatred, aversion and attachment in the heart of all living beings
-Prajnaparamitra Shastra

Tonight we are going to talk about Upekka, or equanimity. This is perhaps the most difficult of all the practices. While the practice is called equanimity, many tend to focus on what it brings: freedom.

Many adults today are afflicted by a soul sickness. With our "love" comes attachment and prejudice. Upekka teaches us this is not true love.

If you intend to give your loved one the space to be themselves, you have made a beginning. Addictions also fall into this category.

If you are addicted to alcohol, the alcohol robs you of your freedom. You view yourself as nothing without it. Because you are less than the alcohol, you are not practicing upekka.

If you have a girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse, and you cling to them by being controlling, jealous, or posessive, you are not practicing upekka. We must free ourselves of this distrust. It is the corroding thread in a relationship. If you don't trust the one you love, you are not practicing upekka.

But if you know you do these things and have the intention to stop, you have made a beginning. You must transform these feelings, even if they may be justified by actions of the other person in the past.

By using mindfulness, we can see where are actions smother others, including ourselves. But we must go further. We must learn to see how we rob everyone of their freedom, even those we dislike. The observation gleaned from mindfulness is the key to transforming any negative behavior.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Faces of Love: Mudita

Practicing the Immeasurable Mind of Joy extinguishes sadness and joylessness in the hearts of living beings.
-Mahaprajnaparamita Shastra

When people visualize the word love, the imagination will often conjure images of happiness, carelessness and fun. This is the easiest way to describe Mudita, or Joy. But is goes a little deeper than that. Unlike lust, this type of feeling is not fleeting or subject to change without notice. It is a glass of sweet iced tea during a muggy Southern afternoon, or a hearty glass of hot chocolate on a bone-chilling January night for our Northern friends.

If you have the intention to bring joy to everyone, including those you dislike, you may be patting yourself on the back, thinking you've got it. But you don't. You have to not only want to make others happy, but you also have to have the ability.

It is only through mindfulness that you can learn to bring joy to the lives of yourself and those around you. The intention is the seed, and mindfulness is the water and the sunlight to turn your saplings into an old, wise forest.

Tall order? No one ever masters it. But spirituality is about the journey, not the destination.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Site Update

Hello there:

I apologize for the absence, we will be returning to our discussion of love tomorrow. I am working on a new name and layout for the site. The address will remain the same for now. It will be changing very, very soon.

When I began this blog, I was looking for a cute and catchy name, and didn't really have a very clear theme. Now that our subject has emerged, I will be naming it something more appropriate so that others may find us.

I apologize to my accidental readers who have come here by way of the search engines looking for a scientific diagram only to find our discussion of Buddhism!


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Faces of Love: Karuna

Practicing the Immeasurable Mind of Compassion extinguishes all sorrows and anxieties in the hearts of living beings.
--Mahaprajnaparamita Shastra

When you go to the doctor, they do not have to have your disease to relieve your symptoms. This is the heart of karuna.

To have good intentions is important. We see someone suffering and we want to make it go away. We want that person to feel better. We want to do anything we can to put a smile on their face. But as good as our attentions may be, we learned last night in metta that good intentions are not enough. We must go further.

Like metta, karuna involves not only the intent but the ability to relieve the suffering of another. And in order to know what it takes to makes someone feel better, we need to use mindfulness in order to see clearly what it is they need.

When someone is suffering, we must ask them what will make it better if we do not know. And we have to practice this with everyone, including the ones that we don't like. It is important to remember that people we dislike are not bad people, but sick ones. They are suffering from a soul sickness that needs our help to cure.

We must be good listeners. We must not judge. And above all, we must use the tool of mindfulness to open the door to understanding. It is the key to unlock our potential, to know the joy that comes from making someone else happy. Karuna is ours for the taking, if we only reach out and grab it.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Faces of Love: Metta (Maitri)

Practicing the Immeasurable Mind of Love extinguishes anger
in the heart of living beings.
--Mahaparjnaparamita Shastra

Metta is not only the intention to make someone happy, but also the ability.

I used to think I was a loving and kind person, doing nice things for everyone I knew whether they liked it or not. When the concept of Metta came into my life, I was disappointed to learn that I did not embody the principle of lovingkindness. My intentions were good, but I did not have the ability to make the other person happy because I was looking at their happiness from my point of view instead of theirs.

By developing mindfulness, we learn to go past our good intentions. We learn to present the other person with happiness and joy because we have put ourselves in their shoes. If your intentions are free and without strings attached, the "what's in this for me" mindset, we are on our way to learning the freedom that Metta brings.

But we must go even further. We must practice developing the ability to bring happiness not only to those we love, but also those we dislike.

We are all here on this planet to avoid suffering and bring joy to others. To live in any other way would be heresy.
Full Text of the Four Immeasurable Minds

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Faces of Love: The Four Immeasaurable Minds

Some people use the term love rather loosely. They love their pet, rainbows and rainy days. Many of us sometimes (myself included) use the word love in place of lust.

Love is such a broad term, it is easy to misconstrue it or twist its meaning, even though our intentions are good. So what is love, anyway?

In Buddhism, there are several different words for love, all describing a different aspect:

maitri/metta*: love or lovingkindness
karuna/karuna: compassion
upeksha/upekka: equanimity
mudita/mudita: joy

While all of these words do not directly translate to the English word love, they are all essential to true love. One of these cannot exist without the other.

If our love is not compassionate, it is not true love. The same is also true is we do not bring the other person joy or allow them the freedom to be themselves. And although this may seem glaringly obvious on paper but harder to practice in real life, true love also means that we must be kind to one another.

Many people do not learn this type of love growing up, and all of their relationships suffer as a result. It is unfortunate that these same people will pass these unhealthy characteristics down to their children. And as spiritually mature as I may seem at this point in my life, I know I am included in this group.

That's why its so important to change these habits, as they affect not only us, but generations to come. We will talk about these aspects of love, also called the Four Immeasurable Minds, in the next few days.

*the first word is the Sanskrit translation, while the second is the Pali. Pali is usually the more widely-used term.

Full Text of the Four Immeasurable Minds

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Seeds for Change: a Month of Mindfulness

Change we must or die we will.

Change is inevitable, whether we like it or not. What are some of the things you would like to change about yourself?

Nothing? Come on, I know about your New Year's Resolutions. Even if you've resolved not to make any, there must be something you're thinking about.

Even though I don't make resolutions, after all the reviewing I have done at the end of my year, there are habits I'm considering changing.

Mindfulness an important part of change. In order to know what we don't like about ourselves, we have to be mindful of it. Although this process happens subconsciously, making an effort to look at my behavior as an outside observer is the first step in figuring out what it is about myself I want to change.

Take a month to try this. Instead of going about your day acting and reacting without paying much attention, try to watch your behavior as if you're looking at a friend. Don't change your behavior because you know someone (you) is watching. If you do that, it won't work.

Keep a small notebook with you wherever you go and take notes of what you see. Next month we'll see how we can use mindfulness to initiate change.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Doing the Right Thing

Spirituality is all about action. What you do daily is important to your journey and shows your maturity. You will hear a lot of talk about doing the right thing. What does this mean?

Doing the right thing means taking the road less traveled. It means doing the selfless thing, the thing that will make you of maximum service to God and others. Spirituality is all about service. We were put on this earth to help each other.

Another word about doing the right thing: there should be absolutely no strings attached. You don't do the right thing because you are trying to get something in return. If you are, than its not the right thing, at least for you anyway.

Doing the right thing does not guarantee you what you want, and many times is harder than what you're used to doing. But the rewards are endless. When you get that peace, that joy inside you, then you will know why it's better to do the right thing.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008 we can all breathe again.

The holidays are over... we can all breathe again.

Have you ever been driving 90 miles an hour and collided head first into a brick wall?

Me neither. But I think that's how I'm feeling right now.

With all the parties, shopping, and working to make sure the season didn't put me in a financial bind, I feel like I've been constantly in motion and I can give myself permission to stop.

The responsible side of me is saying, "No! No! There's still too much to do," while the young woman feeling like she's trapped in an old woman's body is telling me if I don't stop I'm going to end up in bed for the next few days.

By taking inventory and paying attention to the signals that it's time to halt, my responsible side can give permission to take a little break. And that's progress.

So take the day off of your New Year's Resolutions tomorrow. Don't worry. It'll be our little secret. Tomorrow we will get back on track. I promise.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A Clean Slate

Yesterday, a friend of mine called the new year a clean slate. and she's right. It's a chance to take the time over the last week we spent reviewing and planning and put it into action.

When you woke up this morning, this year awaited with you with all the wonder and surprise that it hold. Take the time to pray for guidance in the upcoming year and put your plans into action.

Some recommendations from our friends:

Thich Nhat Hanh recommends meditating for an hour a day. Begin gradually, and work yourself up to it.

Marianne Williamson, author of The Course in Miracles, recommends reading spiritual material for an hour each day. She also suggests doing affirmations 50 times daily.

The book Alcoholics Anonymous, which contains wisdom for more than just alcoholics, suggests morning and evening prayer, daily meditation and inventory.

Now that you've done your review, you'll know what you have planned. Set up a rough schedule loose enough to allow time for adjustments for you to use in the beginning until your tasks become as natural as breathing.

Good luck, and Happy New Year!