Loving Kindness Meditation, Step 1

Meditation

In our previous article Surfing Meditation, we broached the topics of surfing and meditation and the soothing effects they can have on a person.  In another post on Square Breathing, we demonstrated a simple meditation that can be used to calm oneself through using the breath.  Today, we begin a 5 part series on Loving Kindness Meditation.

The Loving Kindness Meditation is based on the Buddhist notion that all beings desire to be happy.  This commonality can unite people through their differing points of view, experiences, and belief systems.  The Loving Kindness Meditation can be thought of as practicing love, and then sharing that love with all around you.  Family, friends, strangers, and even those we “dislike” can all benefit from our love.  As a meditation, it is, in our opinion, one of the most calming and peaceful.  As a daily practice in life however, it is one of the most challenging (yet rewarding) as it involves an active control over our reactions and judgments of other people, and oftentimes unrequited compassion and love.

But why would one wish to practice love?  Isn’t that a little “artificial”?

It is much like anything else in life: if we leave something up to chance and randomness, we’ll never be really great at it.  Once in a while we’ll “fall in love” with someone, and they may or may not love us back.  We’ll love our families, our friends.  Some of us may even learn to love ourselves!  In this unpracticed fashion, love is purely environmental and a reaction to particular, perfect conditions.  With practiced love resulting from the Loving Kindness Meditation, it is a creation resulting from an unshakable internal state.  It is like the difference between the following two surfing situations:

  • Bobbing around in a random place on the water, hoping that not only a stellar wave will happen to come by, but with little to no prior experience, one will be able to catch it and ride it like a pro.
  • Setting up regularly at a known surf spot, with good, consistent sets, and practicing not only catching and riding waves as often as possible, but also sharing them with others thanks to the feeling of abundance.

In summary, if we leave the ability to love to chance, then we only end up loving a very few around us; the easy ones to love.  By consciously practicing love through a Loving Kindness Meditation, we more easily have love for all around us, from the “unlovable” to the ones we already care about very deeply.

Spontaneous love is unpredictable and rare.  Created love is consistent and abundant.

The steps of a Loving Kindness Meditation involve creating love inwards, then progressively moving outwards to different levels of relationships.  These steps are loving:

  1. Your self;
  2. A friend, love, or family member you feel great love for;
  3. A larger group of friends or family you feel love for;
  4. A person you have difficulty loving; and
  5. All persons you encounter.

Traditionally, Loving Kindness Meditations step through all 5 (sometimes 4) tiers in one sitting.  We decided to break this meditation in smaller, composite parts, which will allow the “meditatee” to build focus and a strong foundation of love.  Our first meditation involves Step 1: Loving our Selves.

Appreciating and having compassion for self is the most important step.  As Lucille Ball said, “I have an everyday religion that works for me.  Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line.”  In order to share abundant love with others, we must first build a strong foundation of patience and empathy towards our selves.

With this vision of a strong foundation of love in mind, listen to the guided meditation below.  While listening, keep your breath slow and calm, and repeat the words after they are spoken.  Most important is to truly feel the words and their meanings.  Embody love!  Feel patience  and compassion!  Do not repeat them emptily! (Though if you do, worry not:  Simply have the patience and compassion with yourself to just try again).  Repeat this meditation for as many days as is needed until you feel you have a solid foundation of love and compassion for yourself.

Put your heart and soul into the meditation, and with that, stoke the love within you.

Loving Kindness Audio Meditation Step 1: Loving Yourself

Photo by h.koppdelaney @flickr

Surfing Meditation

 

A friend recently asked me what it was about surfing that relates to Buddhism. In the ensuing expansive explanation, I shared with him the peace and quiet it brings. Upon further discussion, I realized that it may be valuable to share a portion of our upcoming book, Dharma in Every Wave, on this blog…

It’s raining cold pebbles of ice and rain. The piercing offshore wind resonates in my ears as I make my way down the beach from the gravel parking lot. Clutching my board tightly, my right hand echoes the anticipation of my heart and mind as I watch a six foot right crash in the distance. Through the wintery grey and the spray of the waves, I scope my paddle out line of least resistance. I know this beach somewhat, and the general area which can pull me sideways into the oncoming waves. I must be conscious, I must be mindful, and not get distracted by the environment.

Breathing deeply while stretching my back and shoulders, I become aware of the havoc that the cold is playing on my flexibility. Doubt begins to enter my mind. I make room for it, thinking of the warmth and comfort I have left to come here.

My left foot makes that familiar splash as I start to enter the vastness of the ocean which awaits me with gifts of cold, pain, and exhilaration. The wind is howling now, and the rain is hard and piercing, attacking me from below as it forms a barrier off of the embracing sea.

The noise and the harshness of the elements tell me that I do not belong here; and I listen, wondering more and more why I am doing this. I ask out loud if the piercing howl of the wind will cease. I curse the weather as it attacks me. Surely, if I was not wrapped in the protection of the wetsuit, I would have never considered the adventure of the early morning Canadian West Coast beach.

The waves make themselves known to me. A set starts rolling in while I am at that place; too shallow to dive, too deep to guard my face. The water engulfs me, finding every possible way into my core, stopping my breath and stealing the little heat I so preciously guard.

It is at this point that I realize I am alone, and all is noise.

There is no one else here on this beach. No friends to save me if anything goes wrong. No strangers to paddle out if I am not vigilant. I stole out of the hostel I am staying at before first light. Success depends entirely on me, and the doubt is louder and stronger than ever.

I push on, knowing that this noise and distraction is part of my journey to catch the seemingly un-catchable. That moment where you harness the power of the universe under your feet, and tune into the flow of the chaos.

Once the set has passed, I lift myself onto my trusted board and start to paddle, pushing the small feeling of security and self further out and away from the safety and stability of the beach.

Through the rain, wind, and foam, the crest of a giant begins to form. Its thick and dark walls are outlined by the endless shower from above and the sideways spray of water carried by the wind. Choosing not to move backward, I paddle forth towards the uncaring water. As the darkness towers over me, I lift my knee onto my board and clutch the rails of my brazilian beauty. She has seen warmer waters, and I frequently hear her asking me to return her to southern seas. I take a deep breath, push her nose down, and I breathe out. My face embraces the darkness.

I am alone. And all is quiet.

The rain is gone. The wind has stopped. My face, still cold and tight, is somehow calm. I continue to breathe out as I push with my shoulders. For this brief moment in time, all is peaceful. Though surrounded by waters that could eventually cause hypothermia, I have forgotten the cold that was piercing my chest. The uncaring noise of the world is gone, the doubt has washed away, and my mind suddenly feels at peace. My body relaxes into the movement as I follow the momentum of my actions. I feel loose, flexible, strong.

I look up, and can see the faint glimmer of the sun through the surface of the sea. Every time I dive, I return to a different place. Sometimes forward, sometimes back, but always more experienced.

This previous story describes a time when I first realized the power of meditation, and the connection to surfing. As I continued to paddle out that day, I began connecting my love for surf and the actions contained within it to the peace and calm I was acquiring through the studies and meditations Buddhism was bringing me. The rain, the wind, the cold, are all noise that cast doubt in my mind and form a barrier between my true self and my surfing practice. Life casts the same metaphors of noise; distractions such as television, financial woes, self-imposed judgments and internal feelings of external obligations all create states of mind that prevent my true self from being fully expressed.

Meditation, much like diving under a wave as described above, allows me to quiet the busy, day-to-day noise and concerns, and focus on the true strength contained within myself. The thoughts and distractions wash away as I focus on my body, breath, and universal connection. I become relaxed, and am reminded that the mind holds the power with which I can create the internal reactions to external situations. A daily meditation practice allows for more peace, and I must be vigilant in making time for it. Curiously, the more time I make for meditation, the more relaxed I am in the other moments of the day, as if time has been created out of nothing.

Those who have never meditated may feel unsure about what needs to be done. Is there anything to study? Must it be done in any one specific manner? No. There are many ways to meditate, some involve sitting and breathing, some involve sports (such as above), some involve yoga, but all contribute to calmer places within. It is in these moments of internal flow that we let go of our past and future concerns, and focus only on the present moment.

In the near future, we here at Dharma in Every Wave shall be creating some step-by-step meditations to follow and share. These will be audio and written guides, and build successively on one another. If you have never meditated before, by starting with these simple meditations, not only will you feel more at peace, but you will also notice that a daily, consistent practice benefits your mental health and productivity.

The Power of Desire

My best hand sketch!

We’ve all been there: That feeling to have something we don’t, or be with someone whom we aren’t.  That longing look, thinking “If only I had that/him/her, I would be happy!  I would be complete.  I would be better.”

Surprisingly, I have them.  I have them often.  Here’s one recount.

I wasn’t catching many waves (yes, we ALWAYS say that… but this time seemed lower than average!).  I was tired, my board felt all wrong, and I was constantly setting in the wrong spot.  It’s not that I was chasing the perfect wave… I was chasing ANY wave.

So I packed it all in.  The Situation was victorious over me, and I thought it better to bow out and head for the little coffee shop I like.  As I grabbed my coffee and walked out into the lot, I spied the surf shop across the way.  I never really made time for shops, but since the day was still relatively young, I figured I’d head in, grab some wax, and chat up whomever was interested in recounting surf stories.

As I wandered around, I ended up eyeing some new boards and thought it would be a harmless venture to check them out.  As I ran my fingers lightly on the smooth decks and perfect graphics, my eyes settled on a 6 foot thruster.  The graphic was simple and eye catching: 3 pencilled, wavy lines of different shades of blue ran the board lengthwise.  Looking at the board sideways, they resembled 3 cross sections of swells… bo doubt what the artist had in mind.  It was a real beauty… far better than the yellow beater I had picked up in Costa Rica years before.  As I picked her up to check the rocker and rails, I realized another thing: the board was epoxy.  Lighter and stronger than mine, I immediately felt that I would be a better surfer with her under my feet.

I liked the board.  I wanted the board.

I continued comparing this new beauty to my old rugged princess, crammed unforgiveingly in my truck.  Mine was pressure dinged, cracked, gouged, and pummelled.  The visible repairs, the faded yellow, the old footpad: This board was the obvious cause of my poor performance earlier that day.  I quickly became unsatisfied with my ride… a thought which had never entered my mind before.  As if that suffering wasn’t enough, I then began to imagine how brilliant of a surfer I could become with this new epoxy beauty guiding me to the best waves.  I would be unstoppable; immediately consistent and world class!  In my mind’s eye, the sun was shining, the swell was like clockwork, and I was catching every wave with ease.

All thanks to the new board I could purchase.

As I blinked my self back into the present, my eyes focused on the $650 price tag and I swallowed deeply.  I then let out a sigh as I contemplated how I could afford this.  I couldn’t without repercussions… either giving up some food entirely for a little while, or pulling out the credit card and creating some debt.  Either option was not favourable.

At that moment, a general sense of lack and inadequacy started making its way into my mind as I wondered where my savings were, why I couldn’t afford the board, why wasn’t I earning more money, and why had I chosen the career path I was on?

Lack.  Self doubt.  Negative criticism.  Self induced suffering.  ALl form a surfboard, and a price tag?

I smiled as I caught myself.  I eyed the board once again, and thanked it for the lesson.  I walked out to my truck, and admired my beat-up Costa Rican beauty.

Life is a wonderful lesson.

Impermanence and the Beach

Mussels living through the change

Throughout the world, sandy beaches are amazing canvases of human art.  Sandcastles are created that amaze and inspire.  Words of love, names and dates are carved into the beach, creating memories of fantastic times that bring smiles to our faces.

Then as the ocean takes its place, the beaches are constantly changed and recreated.  Beaches grow shallow, grow deep, create pools and disappear altogether, all victim to the cycle of the oceans.  Sandcastles are wiped out and names fade into the sea.  We understand that these things are there just for a limited time.  No one frets about the name that was washed out to the ocean.

And yet, often we do not relate this understanding of beaches into the cycles of our lives.  As humans, we become attached to states, people and events.  We forget that all things are impermanent. In turn, we create the suffering that permeates our lives.  We are afraid of change and try to hold onto things long past their due date.  Unlike the acceptance of storms that we know will recreate shores around the world, we disregard the cycles of our lives.

The Strongest Hunter

saveMe

A few nights ago, I had the pleasure of watching a documentary by Tom Shadyac (of Ace Ventura fame) named “I Am”, which examined the world role of human beings, and the connection we all have, whether we realize it or not, to each other, animals, the planet, and, the universe. I wanted to re-iterate a story which moved me and related to a previous post we have on Famine and Affluence.

There was a time when tribes believed that material possession was the biggest evil one could participate in. They traveled the lands, never owning property, in tune with the world around them, shared amongst their peoples, and had a deep respect for the animals that provided them with nutrition and life. They understood that there was a deep energy between all things.

This is the story of the fall of one such tribe.

There was a tribe who consisted of great hunters. Every week, the hunters would leave their brothers and sisters and go into the woods to hunt for all. They worked together in harmony and respected the animals that they killed. They never hunted the small deer or the females that had fawns.  Instead hunting old Bucks whom had fathered many offspring, and whose life on earth had been useful and long lived. They would hunt these older animals, thanking them for giving themselves for the survival of the men and their tribe.

Screenshot from “I AM”

The great hunters would return to their peoples and share the meat with all: young, old, strong, weak, man and woman. They shared equally with all, and were respected for their courage and love of their brothers and sisters.

One day, the strongest hunter of the tribe was visited by a daemon disguised as a young beautiful woman. She seduced him with her words, and speaking to his ego, told him he deserved more than the others. He wrestled with these thoughts but soon gave in.

At the next hunt, he hunted well and aggressively, breaking the rules the tribe had set for themselves – hunting doe and fawn, as well as the bucks. His brothers were shocked and did not agree with what he had done. When the hunters returned, the strongest hunter said to his tribe: “I am the strongest and hunt the best. Look at the deer I have brought back! It is not fair that I must share equally with all of you who do not hunt. I will keep most of the meat for myself and you can trade with me if you want any.”

Naturally, there was less meat to go around and some were still hungry. The strongest hunter would trade meat and started to amass things he desired for himself, the vision of the daemon woman encouraging him to collet more and more. Soon, he had the most things of all the people in the village, and the others around him grew restless and sad.

As time went on, the other hunters grew jealous of the wealth of the hunter. They also started keeping their meat for themselves. They went against the pleadings of the elders and took up the same strange ideals that the strongest hunter had developed.

With time, the weak and the elderly had no food. The women with no men went hungry. The tribespeople started stealing from each other in order to trade for meat. The women started competing for men, while the hunters took what they wanted. The hunters thrived on the weakness of others, and their society changed to one of wants and dominance.  The strongest ruled, even to the point of unfairness and mistreatment of others.  What was once a society of brotherhood and peace had become poisoned and tired.

Societal Pyramid

Screenshot from “I AM”

When and where did this tribe exist? The surprise is:  It is the tribe of humans. And it is happening now.

We have become a people that value and worship the ones that have much and feel that competition for material gain is just. Many of us seem to have forgotten the link we have to all other human beings, placing our gain above the health and welfare of others.  We have become so accustomed to this way of being that we turn a blind eye to those one the street, and do not seem to remember that there are millions around the world that cannot even eat in one day what some of us eat for breakfast.

I too, am guilty of this blind eye. As I write this post, I am using a laptop which was undoubtedly assembled overseas, in an assembly line where most of us in Western culture would cringe to work. My career offers me advantages that many do not have, simply because they were never given the chance of education or a safe place to live and thrive. The current economic and political system offers those with advantages the chance to rule, to the point of taking away from those they rule over. Is the system as it is fair? Is there an alternative? Are there any lessons to be learned which we can implement in our lives?

This is not meant to preach or tell anyone to change their ways. It is simply meant to remind us (yes, myself included, as I often forget) to be grateful for the opportunities we have and to show compassion for those that do not.

Believe me, I know it is difficult to always show love and compassion for strangers. I frequently forget to listen to others. I forget to see the world from someone else’s viewpoint. I forget that I live in a heated house, protected from the elements, while some others around the world live in garbage piles and search endlessly, day to day, just for something to eat. I forget that my laptop was made by people that have no alternative but to work 16 hour days, 7 days a week, in substandard factories. I forget that the bicycle I use is made of metals that were mined overseas in unsafe working conditions. I forget that, every day, political, military, and economic systems leave the western world taking advantage of the rest of the world in order to maintain status quo. I forget to make connections with strangers.

I too, am guilty.

So what can we do? What can I do? Well, I can try. I can meditate every day and continue to develop myself. Happiness and world peace starts with myself. I remember the good things in my life: my friends, my family, my cat, surfing, martial arts, my health and beautiful women. After this compassion for myself, I develop compassion for others. I make an effort to remember that others may not have the opportunities I have. I try to look at others with no judgement. Even if it is difficult or uncomfortable, I ask, with genuine desire to know, how strangers are.  And not that surface level “How are you?”, but a genuine desire to connect and understand how someone is.  I make jokes and laugh with people I do not necessarily see eye to eye with. I try to remember that even thieves and murderers are doing the best that they can with the life they have. We’re all in this experience together. To think we’re not connected is a fallacy of the society we have developed.

It reminds me of a quote we recently posted on our Facebook page:

When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.

I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.

When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.

Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.”

That’s all I have to say. I will remember, however, the role I play in the world. I will remember to have compassion for myself, as it will make it easy to move through challenges. I will remember to have compassion for others, for it will make my day, and others’, easier and more lovely. I will remember that I have opportunities for peace and happiness that many others do not, as it will help me remember that the issues I believe I have, day to day, are small in comparison to the problems of others in the world.

What will you remember to do?

6 Things to Help Create Calm and Focus

Too often in our lives today, we aren’t in tune with the environment around us; the air, the earth, the people, or even, ourselves.  We forget to take time and focus, remain calm.  We forget the important things in life: life itself.  We begin to live by other people’s rules and ideals.  We forget what makes US tick.  We end up with a wide variety of people, all in different levels of connection with the environment around them.

Some are like the familiar co-worker – Let’s call him John.  John is there every day when you arrive to work.  He’s been there since daybreak, skipped breakfast, is drinking coffee, and has a diet consisting of, on a good day, pizza, soft drinks, and cookies.   He often complains that there is not enough time in the day, he is scattered, unfocused, never giving his all to an item, and tends to stay later than everyone else.

Then, there others… the weird ones that seem to always have life under control, and exude a calmness around them we can’t quite figure out.

Let’s call the fella that embodies this Jeff.  Jeff values work, but not more than his health.  He realizes that in order to be effective at work, he needs to be healthy, both physically and emotionally.  He has always eaten a good breakfast after a calming night of sleep.  He is calm and collected, giving his full attention to any item or conversation he is involved with.  When necessary, he stays late at work, but does not make it an expected, regular occurrence.  He is supportive of others, and seems to always have a
thoughtful, alternative point of view.

Of course, these are 2 different sides, and there is everything in between.  Which one are you like?  Take a moment and think about this.  Seriously.  Do not read any further until you have thought about your day, your energy level, your ability to focus, and calmness under pressure.

Once you have thought about where you are, continue and take a look at some simple things that could create more calmness and focus in your day.

1. Drink a glass of water immediately after waking up.  You lose moisture while you sleep, so you’re less hydrated in the morning. It’s kind of like working an 8 hour shift without any drink! A glass of water helps to restore this balance within yourself, feels good, and starts your system up for the day.

2. Take a minute to be calm, assess yourself, and your day.  If you jump straight out of bed, and rush to get to work, there’s  very good chance you rush through many things without thinking or being mindful of where you are at or want to go.  Take a minute after your glass of water to sit there, look out the window, think about the day you have, and what you want to accomplish.  If it takes getting up 5 minutes earlier, do it.  Do not hit snooze on your alarm.  Do not force yourself into rushing.

3. Eat a healthy breakfast.  Breakfast sets the energy in your body for the day.  Skip it, and you will rely on coffee and quick snacks to keep going, only to crash in the afternoon.  Aim to have a high amount of proteins and some fruit for breakfast.  This will help minimize the carbohydrate sugar hit and crash that can happen.  Have a smoothie. Eat some eggs.  Black beans with salsa.  SKIP CEREAL.  Cereal is usually starch and high amounts of sugar, with little to no protein, and leaves you hungry shortly later.  For some more ideas and a breakfast I stick to that helps my energy levels, check out Tim Ferris’s blog about breakfasts here.

4. Schedule your work tasks as best as possible, and take breaks.  Upon arriving at work, go over the important tasks you need to accomplish today, and focus on getting them done!  Then work in 50 minute increments, making significant progress on tasks during those 50 minutes, then take 10 minutes to stretch, go to the washroom, drink some water, and go over the tasks for the rest of the day.  By setting what you want to accomplish in advance of the work, and giving yourself permission to have a few minutes break every hour, you allow your mind to stay calm, more focused, and , in turn, accomplish more.

5. Do one thing that makes you smile, every day.  This is key.  Every day, we give ourselves and our energy to work, people, and thoughts. By taking the time to do something you enjoy, you give yourself some energy back.  This could be exercise, writing, playing frisbee, calling friends, walking your dog, painting, carving, playing music. Anything that you truly enjoy and smile from!  Even if only for 5 minutes, take the time to allow yourself to play.

6. Meditate, and consider the day you had.  If you meditate, have a session before bed.  Allow your self to be calm, and bring your day to completion.  If you have never meditated, check out our simple Square Breath meditation here.  If you do not want to meditate, then just take a couple of minutes and think about the day you had, bringing it to a wrap.  Breathe for a minute, then pour yourself a glass of water for tomorrow morning.

Repeat daily.  Read this post first thing every morning to help you remember.

Love & Need: Are they the same?

HoldHands

As the yearly “day of romance” makes its way into our lives, and we each think about the card, the gift, or the act we are going to do which we would not usually do, I thought it apt to take a moment and reflect on Love & Need.

Love & Need 
These are different words with entirely different meanings, but are often mashed together to represent the same thing.  I Love you so much, I need you to be happy!” is the theme of many songs, poems and movies.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

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.

Need is described as “a lack of something requisite, desirable, or useful” or “a condition requiring supply or relief”.  This is akin to a child needing its parents to survive, or a seed needing water to sprout.  Need is a taking, a necessity to survive or to progress.

So why is it that “I need you” is a common statement between loving couples, looking for serenity in each others’ arms?  Why is it that our love for others is almost always dependant on reciprocity, as opposed to genuine love?  With time, the “love” that we feel for another drops away with their looks, changed attitudes, or lack of spent time together.  Sometimes, if we do not obtain the affections we were used to receiving from the other, this love even turns to anger and frustration.  Was this ever “love”?  I would assert that it was not.  It was a need.  We were attached to a feeling, a state.  With time, that state changed, and with it, our “love” for another.

“I need you” implies that the person requires another for fulfillment and happiness.  But why do we say “I need you” in the first place?  It could be that we say it out of fear – fear of being alone, fear of being unfulfilled.  And when we enter into relationships out of fear, confusing “need” for “love”, it really is just a matter of time before fear creeps in again.  Fear of being left, fear of infidelity, fear of judgment.  Fear of being left alone again.

What must be done, in order to truly love others, is to realize that we are each fulfilled with our own selves.  We must make the mindful step to become aware that we are each whole, complete, and perfect.  No one else in the world can do that for us – we must accomplish this on our own.  But how can we do this?  One step is mindfulness.  Becoming mindful of our thoughts of need and self-worth allows us to nip them in the bud, before they become core beliefs.  As soon as an idea of low self-worth or doubt comes into our mind, we can thank them for the viewpoint, remember that we made that up, and continue on with what our best selves would do.

But what if the beliefs of need and low self-worth are already habitual, engrained in our core belief systems?  It is comforting to know that they probably are.  Comforting?  Yes, as it provides us with the insight that everyone is the same as us!  But that is a topic for another time.

So how do we begin to examine our core beliefs?  Well, one first step is indeed to be mindful – this will help us to notice our beliefs.  Another powerful step is to spend time examining where these core beliefs stem from.  After all, beliefs don’t just appear!  They are formed from prior experiences, and our reactions to those experiences.  A major benefit, though emotionally charged and perhaps initially difficult, can come from a simple exercise.  In the spirit of true romance and learning about your partner, you could even do this together, examining your beliefs and having an open-hearted discussion about them.

Core Belief Exercise
Take a piece of paper, a pen, and write down your beliefs about yourself, your self worth, and why you “need” someone to feel happy.  Then, trace back in time to the earliest possible memory you have of thinking that thought.  The thought most likely occurred in reaction to an event.

The event could be of great significance and trauma, or could be something that someone said in passing, not really thinking it could be interpreted in such a powerful way.  Luckily, that event happened a long time ago, and holds no true physical power over you anymore.

If you find yourself becoming upset, remember that it was simply an event.  Something that happened, and the event itself holds no power over you.  Write the event down, as detailed as possible.  Then,  what you thought, felt, and what belief you created about yourself.

It is these thoughts and beliefs you created that hold the real power over you.  Not the events, but the beliefs created by the reaction to the events.  You can then examine the beliefs you created, and begin to let them go.

This may be difficult for some of us, as events of all kinds can hold different emotional charges.  The method, and premise, however, of confronting the past and seeing it simply as an event, and a lifelong reaction to that event, holds the key to releasing the Suffering that is created by this core belief.  Once we see where the core belief comes from, we can start to be more mindful in our lives for when it tries to creep into our minds and make us feel less complete than what we really are.

Another step to aid us on our path of love without need, is to adopt a daily practice of loving kindness meditation.  A loving kindness meditation can help us to move forward in the path of self-love, and in the process, develop true love for others.  People we never thought we could care about: the person that stole, the former intimate partner, even the step-parent!  In time, this daily meditation of Loving-Kindness shall also help to develop your mindfulness, become more cognizant of the thoughts and feelings you create within yourself.  Following is a link to a wonderful Loving Kindness meditation from Buddhanet.  Please take some time to sit back and enjoy it!

So in summary:
  1. Be more mindful
  2. Complete the core belief exercise.  Bonus if you complete it with your partner!
  3. Follow a daily Loving Kindness meditation
These steps will surely help you enter your relationships with Love, as opposed to filling a Need.

Happy Valentines Day!  Enjoy life and each other!

Famine, Affluence, and Morality

BabyFoot

I have had a wonderful Christmas; less focused on the material gifts of consumer society than ever before, I have been able to enjoy the gift of giving to those that need.  Also, I have been able to partake in the joy of my best-friend having a child born on the 26th of December.  “little Baseball Face” we have nicknamed him, much to the dismay of his parents. This child is lucky to have been born in Canada, and have access to the wonders of modern medicine, which all but ensured his and his mothers’ health.  I am thankful; actually, we all are.

This realization of our luck  also brings about the thought of millions of other newborn children and mothers not having access to the same basic medical care.  At this time of holiday gift buying and sharing, this thought raises an important ethical issue.  As Peter Singer essentially asked in his essay entitled Famine, Affluence and Morality: “Isn’t there a question of what we should be spending our money on?”  I will structure the argument much the same way Peter Singer asked this question in the documentary An Examined Life.

Imagine the $200 shoes and $150 pair of new pants you just received for Christmas (or any other expensive clothing).  You have been wearing them at a party, and have left on foot to return home.  You come across a shallow pond, and as you walk past it you notice a small child drowning in the pond.  You look around and cannot see any other people, and realize that you are the person that must save this child.  The pond is shallow enough that it would not present any danger to you, so what would you do?  Most likely, you would not waste a moments thought and wade into the pond, saving the child, and in turn, ruining the expensive new shoes and pants you received for Christmas.  The financial value of the clothes would not even enter into the decision to save the child or not.

It is at this point that Peter Singer would agree with you and your decision, and yet mention, that for the price of the flashy new clothes you received for Christmas (or the iPad, or jacket, or ski ticket) Oxfam, Unicef, or Worldvision, could save a child, or many children, in a poor country where children are currently dying because they cannot receive basic medical care for very basic diseases.

The thrust of Peter Singers’ argument is that if we possess the financial ability to reduce suffering in the world, then it is immoral not to do so.  There should be no differentiation between the child drowning in the pool, and a Guatemalan child, or an Ethiopian, or any other child on this great Earth of ours.

Now, this is not meant to take away from Christmas or the joy around us; it is simply a reminder that there are those who have not, and we must remember to make a difference where we can, when we can.  It is never too late to start helping.  I am thankful to be here in this world, and I am thankful that little baseball face is happy and healthy.

What is the bigger purpose?

PeopleSilhouettes

 

This is a small piece of a larger question, and I share it tonight because it hit me about an hour ago

There is this old tale of a monk, who is traveling the lands when he comes across a rock quarry.  A tired, frustrated man is chipping away at a large boulder with less than no enthusiasm, all the while cursing the lot he has been given.

Curious, the monk approaches him and asks him what he is sculpting.

Annoyed, and staring in disbelief at the audacity of someone asking him such a silly question, the man snaps “what does it look like? A boulder!”. He stares coldly at the monk, then continues his stone chipping.

The monk turns and continues to walk, slowly realizing he is in a rock quarry, and that there are many more stone workers like the first, all around him.  They too, are cursing their lots, looking tired and irritated, all chipping away at boulders.

As the monk slowly walks through the quarry, he sees the large rocks at various stages of completion.  It seems that they are being shaped into large cylinders.  But for what?  Every time the monk asks a sculptor what they’re for, he gets a snappy remark, or ignored altogether.  No one seems happy with their work.  No one is satisfied.

It is on his way out of the quarry that the monk notices someone a little different.  This man is sculpting the rock, same as all the others; but there is something different about his manner.  He is smiling, and humming to himself.  He is playing with his chisel, and, focused yet easy, striking with purpose.  He seems light.

The monk approaches this scupltor, and again asks him what he is doing

“Me, well I am building a temple! It will be the most beautiful work of art you have ever seen!”

What’s the point? I thought of this tonight, while I was slowly scratching some adhesive off of a surfboard I am finishing. (note, do not use cheap tape!)

After 2 hours of slowly scratching the tape off, and taking care not to damage the top deck, I had become so largely annoyed with the detail and tediousness of this task, that I had forgotten the goal of the task: that I was building something custom, one of a kind, and beautiful.  It was then that I remembered the story of the monk, and concurrently realized that it is too easy to get lost in the details of our lives and our self importance.  We often forget that we are here for the great good of making a difference for other people in our lives, and shut ourselves off from the joy and the passion of the greater world we are contributing to.

Take a moment to step back, and think about the difference you have made to someone’s life, through a smile, contribution, or kind comment.  Even how your job, as tedious and fruitless as it may sometimes seem, is contributing to a larger cathedral in the world, which brings opportunities and prosperity to those associated with it.