The Buddha Walks into the Office

For this post, we’ve come up with… a book review!  Looking forward, we will be making this a regular staple of our posts here at Dharma in Every Wave.  Sometimes, we forget to put posts up… but we are always reading and taking notes.  If you like the idea, and have books you can recommend, please comment below and share!

Kid, you had a rough day.  Everyone has them.  And when you do – do what I do – you ask yourself: Anybody’s life better because of what I did today?  If the answer’s yes… then stop your whining.  If not, well, do better tomorrow.

- Comic book character Nick Fury.

If there is one thing that I remember after turning the last page of Lodro Rinzler’s The Buddha Walks into the Office, it would be built on the above quote based entirely on the words of a fictional character.  Not only did it make me laugh and recall Samuel L. Jackson’s rendition in the recent Avengers movie, but it also held a deep message that I could serve to refer to daily.  Indeed, if there is one thing we could all do, it is to try and make other people’s lives better.

This teaching of working for the benefit of others, directly and indirectly, is one of the core themes often revisited this poignant and often inspiring. The book itself is about applying the underlying Buddhist roots and teachings to a modern scenario we are mostly all subject to.  A place where our emotions often get the best of us.  Where our encounters with others can be a forced mix of personalities who are not necessarily the people we would spend time with in social situations.  That place, would be where we go to work.

Lodro writes that you should be “…approaching your life and work from the perspective of what is good for everyone, not just yourself.”

“When someone comes to you with an issue, they often believe it is the most important thing on your agenda as well as theirs.  To treat it as otherwise is a slap in the face.  To lean in and meet that person in that state of mind where they can sense that you value what they are working on is a gift.  When you create this kind of space for someone, they will often resolve a difficult issue in an amicable way, because you offered them your heart.”

“When we engage our speech in a kind and mindful manner, we are not just avoiding causing harm to others.  We are treating every encounter with our coworkers as a spiritual practice, an opportunity to connect with our goodness and theirs.”

Building on this way of seeing and helping others, Lodro tells us that the real goal, the real juice of meditation, is to bring the lessons of those quiet hours of contemplation to fruition in the real world in trying situations.

“If you can shift your view so that your work is spirituality, then you can bring your meditation practice off the cushion and live your hours at work with meaning and purpose.”

Lodro does not lose sight of what many of us want in life: to be, or to follow, a great leader.  Vulnerability is explored as one of the most desirable strengths a leader could possess. 

“It is said that people are more likely to follow a leader if that individual is easy to relate to in some way.  We are inspired by leaders who make themselves available.  In his book Integrity, Dr. Henry Cloud wrote, “The tension between vulnerability and strength in leaders cannot be lost.”  This is the power of bodhicitta.  It is not a weepy heart or a heart that whines a lot.  It has tremendous strength because it is a heart that is open, capable, and brave.”

“When faced with cynicism or overt threats, a strong leader will rise to the occasion with a sense of openness.  I am a firm believer that cynicism can be overcome by power of an awake heart and that uncomfortable conversations can be softened through bodhicitta.”

(Bodhicitta is a Sanskrit term.  Bodhi for “open” and citta for “heart”.)

The Six Paramitas

Building on and exploring vulnerability, Lodro works through six states of being that can help each us be more mindful at work, and bring an ease to the areas we are involved in.  In Sanskrit, these states are known as the six Paramitas.  Para can be translated from Sanskrit as “other shore” and mita as “arrived”.

1. dana (generosity)

“Pema Chodron once said on the topic of generosity, “The main point isn’t so much that we give, but that we unlock our habit of clinging.”  Whether you are giving your material possessions, money, time, service, or presence, it is about offering yourself in a way that unbinds you from your habitual way of relating to the world.”

2. shila (discipline)

“Discipline often gets a bad rap.  People think it’s something that is going to be imposed on them, like when you mess up at work and your boss calls you in to his office to discipline you.  The Buddhist perspective is much different from that and is based on developing virtue.”

“…to practice discipline is to carry out more positive actions.  The more you meditate, the more you turn the tide against the habitual way you have lived your life.  One easy way to do this is to determine what “positive actions” means to you.”

“My personal recommendation is to jot down then positive actions that you can do at work on any given day.”

When performing positive actions for others, it’s good to remember that “…the biggest jerks we know are the ones most in need of kindness and care.  So please apply the discipline of working to better their lives, too.”

“It’s always easy to be nice to those who are nice to us.  The real challenge, and the situation that can effect the most change in the workplace, and the world, is to be helpful to those difficult people who annoy the hell out of you.”

3. kshanti (patience)

“Dudjom Rinpoche has said, “The point of patience is to train so that our altruistic attitude is immovable and irrepressible in the face of those who hurt us with their ingratitude and so forth.”  Patience is not something that is based in just waiting until you get to do what you want to do, with those people you want to do things with.  It is based in relating fully with a situation, even if it annoys the hell out of you.”

 “Patience is easy to practice when you know something is going to happen eventually; it is an asset when you don’t know what will happen next.  If you can smile in the face of uncertainty, you are well trained.”

4. virya (exertion)

Exertion “encompasses both applying yourself on behalf of others and rousing yourself to think about more than just your own particular situation.”

“One thing you can do to try …this type of exertion is to take a “choose me” approach. Anytime your boss asks for volunteers for an upcoming task, be the first one to throw your hand up in the air.  Exert yourself beyond your comfort level.  Try this for up to one week and see how you feel at the end of it.”

“We can embrace the path of offering ourselves for others as a means to our own happiness.”

5. samadhi (meditative concentration

 “The simple fact is that when we are focused and truly mindful, we feel good about what we are doing, whether it is eating a good meal, enjoying a conversation with a client, or completing a successful surgery.”

“The internet has made it so that completing a simple report can take ten times longer than it should because your friends want to g-chat with you, your ex has posted pictures of himself/herself on Facebook, and the latest gossip site has just broken a big story.”

“It may be best to cut down on multitasking and develop a feeling of well-being by bringing yourself entirely to whatever is right in front of you.”

“If you are truly present with people, they begin to feel respected and encouraged.”

6. prajna (wisdom)

 “There is great wisdom in taking the time to hear someone out and give yourself the space to understand what they are trying to communicate.  When you sit down to meet with someone, you can take the attitude of not needing to come up with an immediate solution to whatever the issue is.  You can avoid interrupting them or making assumptions and instead listen deeply.”

 “After deeply listening to a variety of opinions, you should chew on them.  See what truth sits with you and what does not.  Reflect on what has been offered to you.  There is an element of patience in this process as you continue to contemplate what you have heard, sorting through what comments ring true and which you think ought to be disregarded.”

“Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche wrote, “When our attitude is open, we can have fun with what the world presents.”  The workplace does not have to be a battleground; that is just one way to view it.  Instead we can view it as a fun factory.  You can begin by offering the paramitas to yourself, seeing how they influence your behaviour.  See if they perk you up, if you feel uplifted and joyful because of them.  See if you become more efficient at work.  Then you can begin offering the paramitas to others, both the individuals you like and those you have a hard time with.  Eventually, you can offer this perfect activity to everyone you meet.  If you are able to offer your heart in this way, it can transform not just your workplace but the entire world.”

The Six Ways of Ruling

There is another set of teachings from the Tibetan Buddhist canon whose purpose is to guide a person in their position of leadership.  These teachings, if adhered to, can help ensure that you stay a warm, open and genuine leader who inspires those around you.

1. Benevolence

“The Oxford English Dictionary defines benevolent as “well-meaning and kindly.”  In the context of the Six Ways of Ruling, however, benevolence means more than just meaning well; it is actively engaging kindness so that the lives of the people you are leading are changed for the better.

For example, benevolence might mean that you are open enough to recognize that keeping employees late ruins last-minute dinner plans with their spouse or makes them less likely to get enough sleep to be competent the next day.  Seeing their situation and feeling empathy will lead you to decide what is best for both the project at hand and the employees.  You are taking a holistic look at your work situation rather than focusing on deadlines alone.”

 “When you have a conviction in basic goodness, you develop a sense of weightiness, like the sheriff.  He knows that he is doing what is right, what needs to be done, so he is stable and solid, like a mountain.  Being true to your own goodness has that kind of power.  You can be as steadfast as a mountain when you experience the strength of your basic goodness.”

2. Truth

“The first aspect of being true is unwavering presence, that mountain-like steadiness.  Then there is the second aspect: power.  There is tremendous power within that steadiness, that Olympian ability to truly be there for a task or for others.The last element… is warmth.  “

3. Genuineness

“Durant, summarizing Aristotle again, said, “Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”  Excellence in the workplace is not a onetime thing.  Neither is being genuine. In both cases, you have to repeatedly come back to the idea that you want to be genuine with others.  If you can hold that as a mantra worth repeating, then you can spend your day coming back to this simple principle over and over again, gradually undoing negative habitual patterns and replacing them with the Six Ways of Ruling.”

4. Fearlessness

“One aspect of working from a position of power is learning when you need to be fearless.  Fearlessness is the fourth of the Six Ways of Ruling, and the first of the three under the heading of powerful.”

“Fearlessness is based in the idea that in order to truly deal with your phobias, you need to confront them with an open heart and mind.  Eventually, through repetition, meditation, and possibly even therapy, you can work through them.”

5. Artfulness

“Artfulness is the fifth of the Six Ways of Ruling.  It is the ability to flow with your life, as opposed to measuring it out in exact terms.  It is seeing what needs to happen and making it happen, utilizing the skill sets at your disposal.  When you are successful at being artful, everything looks effortless.”

“This aspect of artfulness is sometimes referred to as arranging your kingdom.  Imagine your life as a kingdom, with you as the monarch.  Knowing you cannot do everything or be everywhere, you need to appoint certain people as ministers, others as generals, others as educators, and so on, so that everyone has their rightful place in the kingdom based on their unique abilities.

“Being artful includes consideration of others.  The artful leader cares about the people they are leading and wants to know them intimately.”

6. Rejoicing

“The final quality of the Six Ways of Ruling is rejoicing.  While is sounds simple enough, many of us don’t take the time to celebrate our lives as fully as we should.  We have a knack for dwelling on all the upsets that come our way, complaining about our inconveniences, instead of celebrating everything that we have going for us.”

“It’s actually possible to celebrate whatever or not we have something specific to celebrate.  With the view that everyone and everything we encounter is rooted in basic goodness, we can find magic in any situation.”

“Rejoicing is a direct outcome of combining the previous five methods of leadership.  When you are benevolent to others, are true to yoUr own goodness, can genuinely point out the logic in any given situation, are fearless in presenting that goodness and logic, and are artful in your execution, a great deal can be accomplished.  When that happens, it’s only natural to party.”

There is a quick reminder of our daily challenges: “If we recognize obstacles as merely part of the display of our world, then we realize we don’t have to take them – or ourselves – so seriously.  You are not this heavy, solid thing but a vast conglomeration of knowledge and experience that is ever-changing.  Similarly, when you face an obstacle, you should think of it in the same impermanent, fluid way.”

The book ends with an important reminder of how we can choose to be in the world.  A mantra which, combined with some moment of silence first thing in the morning,can help create a day of ease, no matter the adversity.

Let go of what has passed.
Let go of what may come.
Let go of what is happening now.
Don’t try to figure anything out.
Don’t try to make anything happen.
Relax, right now, and rest.

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Learning to Accept Injury

Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/hotnacho/1369952540/

Last year, (November 11th 2014, to be exact) while bending over to pet my cat, I felt a sudden “oh sh%#” moment, as my L5 disc bulged, my right SI joint locked up, and my right psoas muscle pulled and seized in a moment of dimension shifting pain.  If my friend Dan wasn’t in the room, I would have cried.

Funny moment in retrospect: frozen in stationary position in my hallway, bent at the waist, petting my cat as he purred and stared at me.  I stood there for a few seconds, contemplating how to take the next step.  This moment left me immediately unable to walk, stand straight, or sit down without being in deep pain.  Now, this pain, and the resulting injury is nothing in comparison to others I have had which left me disabled for both months and years… but it was enough to remind me of the following important lessons: Continue reading

Looking back as we look forward

MontyFace

Twice and thrice over, as they say, good is it to repeat and review what is good. – Plato

 

The new year has come and gone.  Some of us have begun implementing our “New Year Resolutions”, of which only a few percentage of use will ever stay on track (see our last post on this here).  Others have no time whatsoever for these types of thoughts, and we have carried on with day to day lives, the only major change of which is to sign “2015” in the year part of the date.

For us, looking back, this little website and our book (the book, mostly!) have come a long way from an idea in 2011.

We thought we’d have a short post for all our readers, new and old, to highlight some of the ideas, strategies and systems that have made a big impact in our lives.  Following are a few of our favourite, and most popular, posts from over the years.

Sometimes, we over complicate what a meditation should be.  The Square Breath meditation, though effective in its result, only takes 16 seconds to tune into.  Check out this little gem : Continue reading

Chapter 1 sample of our upcoming book

Beach-Ocean-Wave

Well friends, we’ve been working feverishly and furiously on the book.  Following is a sample of the first chapter, for your reading enjoyment.  We’ve included clips of a few of the sections.

We hope you enjoy it, and share it too!
 

Chapter 1 – Finding the Path
Sojourn, pt. 1

It’s raining cold, dark sheets on the windy road to the coastal surf town. I left as early as possible to get to the beach for sunrise. It’s 8 AM, but the sky is still dark with grey clouds and torrents of water. I pull up to Long beach to see if I want to get in the water before heading into town and warming myself up with one of the greatest gifts from the earth: a freshly brewed coffee.

The scene is a familiar one on the west coast of Canada: mountains of deep blue water crashing onto sandy and rocky beaches. Driftwood logs from the logging industry litter the coastline. Rain comes from all directions. Strong winds spray the tops off of the distant waves and help them keep from breaking. All in all, this morning is perfectly frightening.

The sound is violently calming. The universe moves these waves at its whim, pushing them against the sand and stone beaches of this once remote part of the world. I roll down my truck window to smell the air.  Salt floods my nostrils and refreshes my soul as the ions enter and play with my senses, pulling memories of past times in the ocean to the forefront of my mind. Continue reading

How I stopped incorporating Dharma, and left my dreams behind.

Dawn dust grass

 

This post is a little different. It’s more of a rant, an honest expression on how I thought I failed, and what I have created to bring myself back from that mindset. I hope this contributes some value to you, and that you can use the system for your own benefit.

There was a time, months ago, where I was fervently moving towards everything I wanted in life. I was dating a beautiful, intelligent, and motivated woman, with the thought that I would one day have a family to nest with.

I was always pushing my career further, moving into new areas in which I had no experience, but wanted to take on and grow into.

I exercised daily, and pushed my martial arts skills to new levels, motivated by the satisfaction of better, faster, and stronger movements.

I wrote for this blog almost daily, with notebooks and post it notes full of ideas to be one day incorporated as insightful posts and chapters for our upcoming book, Dharma in Every Wave.

I read books on leadership and communication, using the lessons, tips, strategies and systems in my career, personal relationships, and day-to-day interactions with strangers.

I meditated daily, a half hour in the morning on waking, and a half hour before bed. This brought peace and ease to my life in immeasurable ways.

Then one day, in March of 2014, I suddenly lost all my motivation for most things I was working towards. I lost my vision of what I wanted my life to look like. Things were automatic and built in, but I did not remember why I was doing all these things.

I forgot the essence of my life, and what was important to me.

Continue reading

Courtesy to an ant – a meditation on connection

The elephant becomes courteous to the ant

A few days ago, during my spring solstice meditation (Every Solstice, a friend and I tend to dedicate an entire evening, usually into the wee hours of the morning, to focused meditation), I stopped for a few minutes to read some Hafiz. In case you do not know Hafiz, he was a Persian poet, not unlike Rumi in his greatness. Though a few of his poems stroke me particularly deeply that evening, this one resonated to my core, and has been with me since.

God
Blooms
On the Shoulder
Of the
Elephant
Who Becomes
Courteous
To
The
Ant.

Wow, it still hits me strongly. No matter what your version of God is (in my case, it is a form of universal connection between all things), the depth of these words are profound. The patience, love, and respect we can all develop, by respecting all beings, is simply awe inspiring. Imagine if the next time you were out in the world, you were as equally generous with kindness to strangers as with your friends and family?

The poem, and this vision of kindness, reminds me of the story of the Buddha and an untouchable named Sunita. In ancient India, the untouchables were the lowest caste in the Hindu caste system. They were the wretched, the poor, the diseased. They cleaned toilets, did the hardest work, and were prohibited from entering Hindu temples. If they were heard reciting prayers, their tongues were cut out. It was the worst imaginable existence. But the Buddha did not care.

In the story of Sunita the untouchable, the Buddha approached him, and said “My friend, please come closer so that we may talk”. Continue reading

The Suffering of lies

When is a cat a dog?

“Rahula, for anyone who has no shame at intentional lying, there is no evil that that person cannot do.” – The Buddha to his son, on lying.

This week, I am going to touch on something that has hit close to home recently.  Sadly, I discovered that a close and dear friend of mine had been lying to myself, and others, about both unimportant and important things.  I was angry and reactive at first, thinking about the wrong that had been done to me.  Over the course of a few days, I let go of the attachment of being wronged, and began reading up on lying, trying to gain and understanding of where it comes from.  I re-read portions of the 5 precepts in Buddhism, but also the reasons of why we lie and the effects on us. The major discovery I unearthed is that lying is usually born out of shame, and essentially, a twisted method to trying to be happy.

Let me start at the end of my research, as understanding the causes of lying can lead to more compassionate understanding of others, ourselves, and the purpose of the fourth precept which is “to not lie, to be truthful”. Continue reading

Let it go.

Let go

“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one” – Bruce Lee

In our multifaceted, complex lives, sometimes things can be difficult.  We travel for work, spending long days away from home. Our bodies become sick. We argue with loved ones. We end up jobless at a time when money is needed most. We are judged by those that don’t understand the actions we take.

Someone close to us leaves us behind.

We then cry out that these things shouldn’t happen; they should not be the way they are.  We decide that things, life, and events are unjust and unfair.   We label them, judging them as bad or good, instead of accepting the ways things are: neither good, neither bad, just there.

The weather is never bad, it’s just weather.

In this way of resisting what is, we add lots of negativity, anxiety, and frustration. Often times, we spend more energy criticizing how terrible things are than what what is done in the first place! How many times have we recounted to friends and family about the terrible driver that cut us off that day? The unfair cost increase in our power bill? The store ran out of bananas?

This way of carrying things around with us, past the event itself, is well recounted in a story of two monks. Continue reading

Impermanence Revisited in Poetry

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With impending sleep, we lay our beds on the seeming stability that is the land.

Solid.  Dry.  Stable.

The familiarity of the campsite.

The security of the fire.

The comfort of the sleep.

 

Anchored, we chase the wave, the impermanent thought of a faraway moon.

Taming it long enough to believe we are in control,

all the while wishing to join it in its mysterious evasiveness.

 

When we’re done with the power of the universe casting ripples on our ocean,

We return to what we know:

The familiarity of sleep.

The security of the campsite.

The comfort of the fire.

 

-JML

For more thoughts on impermanence, check our post Impermanence and the Beach.

The Zen of Relationships

Zen Heart

In one of our previous posts, Love and need: Are they the same?, we touched on the idea of Love versus the attachment to another human being.  Now, these ideas are easy to understand, but what about when an event happens, such as the loss of someone you care about, through the end of a relationship?  This is all written with the background that this writer had a relationship end quite recently!

Enter the Zen of Relationships.

Why Zen of relationships, and not END of relationships?  Well, even after a separation, you still have a relationship with someone.  Even if you do not speak, you have shared experiences and created memories.  These memories still form views of relationships in your mind, and shape relationships to come.  Also, this person is someone you once cared for tremendously.  To cut them off, with no remorse is, in essence, cutting off a part of yourself, and not acknowledging the love that existed in the first place.

Remember that Love is described as “unselfish loyal concern for the good of another”.  The key word here is unselfish.  This is synonymous with the words “if you love something, let it go”.  If you truly love, then no matter another’s actions of reciprocity towards you, you continue to act benevolently towards them.  You are looking out for their best interest out of a genuine, caring place.  Even at the end of a relationship, if you truly loved or cared for that previous partner, you want what is best for them; even if that means them being with people other than yourself.

These things being said to lay the foundation of thought, here are some ways that can help move through the end of a relationship.

1.  Act with dignity.  This is simple: Be polite, amicable.  If the other person has decided to end the relationship, then be civilized.  Treat them with respect and dignity.  Do not insult them; that will only further their belief that the relationship was wrong, and leave them with bad memories of your reaction to the event.  Remember, Life is not only about events, but more about how we REACT to those events.

2. What did you learn?  Ask yourself, what did this other person, or the situation, teach you about life, your self, other people, and relationships?  By realizing what you learnt in the relationship, you will consciously appreciate some extra details in your day-to-day life, as well as take new learnings to your next relationship, your friendships, or even just for solo adventures.

3. What did you teach them?  It is important to think about what you taught the other person,  not from the mindset that they needed to learn or that you are better, but from the mindset of proper self worth and appreciation of your gifts.  By realizing what you have to offer to the world, as well as understanding what you have learnt (Step #3), you can realize that you are a constantly changing and improving being, that has tremendous worth and love to give to the people around you.

4. Set some minimum time apart and give yourself time.  Yes, even though I am saying Zen of Relationships, it does not mean that you necessarily say involved at the outset!  After all, we are still human beings with very powerful emotional responses.  It is still important to set some time apart, and decrease the intimate & emotional familiarity that was created between two people.  It is important to take time and re-connect with being independent, and remember all of the things that make you a wonderful human being.  This goes hand in hand with #5.

5.  Let go of the relationship.  The idea of attachment is a key concept in Buddhist thinking.  It is one of the components that can lead to suffering in our lives.  By being attached to the way things are, were, could be, or could have been, we tend to create emotional sufferings that are far greater than the end of a relationship.  As Sheng Ts’an said, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”.  Events that cause us pain will happen, no matter what.  How we choose to respond to these events is what will create great freedom in our lives.  Why?  Because  thoughts of attachment can follow us and affect or day-to-day emotions, behaviours, and thoughts.  Letting go of them allow us to have room for new possibilities and potentials.  In particular, one should:

  •    Focus on the steps above and see the relationship as it was.
  •    Spend some time letting go of the past. Realize that the relationship ended, and that you now have room to create something new.
  •    Enjoy the present moment, and the things that give you happiness. Bike riding, time with friends, hobbies of all kinds.
  •    Accept the thoughts of the past relationship, thank them for what they mean, an return to the present.
  •    Stop justifying and thinking about what could have been. Take the lessons you learned, and apply them in your life, for the next time. Every relationship teaches us something which can be used to build stronger relationships in the future.

6. Love yourself, and others.  Be open to love again.  It is easy to build an emotional wall and say “I won’t get hurt again!”  This emotional cut-off will prevent love and strong binds between you and others.  In order to love and be loved, one must take the risk and be vulnerable.  One cannot truly love if naked vulnerability is not present.

Sometimes, you have to accept that some people can only be in your heart, not in you life.