This Guy Ate An Avocado…And You Won’t Believe What Happened Next!

Some time in the last century a friend of mine offered me some of her avocado.

No, thanks, I said. I don’t really like them.

Her eyes grew wide. How can that be? she asked. They’re so good.

I don’t get why people make such a big deal about them, I said. They’re bland. They don’t taste like anything. There’s nothing special about them.

But how can you not love that light, creamy, green taste? she pressed. It’s so rich and delicate at the same time.

She handed me the avocado and a spoon. Go ahead, she said. Try it again.

I didn’t hate avocados. They didn’t disgust me. And she seemed really sincere. So I thought, What the hell? And tried it.

And the windows were opened and the light came in.

Sun in clouds framed

Of course there was a light rich, creamy flavor somehow deep and delicate at the same time. But it wasn’t new. It had always been there.

It was the taste of an avocado – and I had tasted it before. I’d always known it. But I’d been looking for something else, something more obvious. Maybe something sweet or sour or salty, something intense.The avocado was none of these things, but it was extraordinary as it was. I just had to see that, and take it as it was. There was nothing extra needed – it was there all along.

It makes some people nuts when you say they’re perfect as they are. They feel pretty shitty a lot of the time, and they’re 20 pounds overweight, or they can’t stop smoking, or they’ll never finish that novel, or whatever the fuck it is. They can’t get their shit together. So when you tell them they’re perfect it seems idiotic, it sounds like bullshit.

Because they aren’t what they want to be, or what they hoped they would be, and time is running out!
 
And there’s no getting around it: life is a litany of disappointments. You lose everything you love, and you die at the end.

 True story.

Dream seat framed


And Death is so scary! It’s awful. Death is Darth Vader. Death destroys worlds. Everything frightening is frightening because it threatens us with death, even when we don’t see it that way. Even if we say we’re afraid of losing our job, or losing our wife, or losing our minds, it’s all death. It’s the loss of ourselves.

Because everything threatens us. Life is a stranger’s sojourn, and we’re never at rest. To be alive is to be uncomfortable, and to be imperilled. When we’re lonely we long for love, and if we find love we’re afraid to lose it. And often we do lose it, despite our best efforts or, worse, as a result of our best efforts, because our best efforts were not what the beloved wanted.

And other people are always happier than we are, or better looking, or they have more money.

So, you know, when you tell some people they’re perfect the way they are, they just think you’re mocking them, or that you’re full of shit.


But, regardless, each of us is perfect and pristine, an unfolding miracle, exactly as we are.

The problem is that our consciousness, the faculty that makes us so successful, that thrust us into unfettered dominion over the beasts of the earth and the fish of the sea, and endowed us with the vision and the tools to create the Alphabet, the Electric Light, and Two and a Half Men, has brought with it this illusion of a Self that is separate from the rest of the universe, that travels through it and is threatened by it.

And because this Self is so small compared to all that is, because deep inside we know that we die at the end, we have to spend our short lives propping up and defending this illusory ghost. William Mortensen - Creature

But it never ends. It’s never good enough. It can never be good enough. And we see everything from the inside, from the ghost’s point of view, from the grave.

And the world doesn’t care, and it doesn’t help us. It doesn’t take us seriously. It keeps throwing shit at us, and taking our stuff away. We can’t keep anything, and nothing works for long. To protect ourselves we have to fix everything. If we can just organize our shit we’ll be okay.

Because we’re never satisfied, the world is wrong. We need to fix it, to fix it, to fix it.


Take a second, right now. Just stop, and take a breath, and feel the breath within your body. Cool through your nostrils and throat, gently swelling through your torso, warm and full in your belly.


You will have felt some part of that. Even if you are racked by suffering and sorrow, there is some part within you that is at peace.

How can you reach it?

You can breathe again, and watch the breath, and feel it spread through your body.

You can rest for a  moment, for the span of a breath, just a few seconds. Feel the tingling in your toes or the top of your head, feel the warm luxuriant suchness of your torso, your belly, your chest. It’s just there – it just is. Feel how you are. Don’t back away.

You can let the pain go – there will be time for it later.

Don’t neglect the simple pleasure of being, the simple peace of being. Don’t neglect the miraculous fact that you are here, and that the time is now.

Do you see? It’s right here in front of you. Everything you’re looking for.

 

Look closer…

 

Do you see?

 

This guest contribution was by Chris Logan.  Chris is a long-time Dharma practitioner who writes about culture, ethics, and wisdom in Victoria, British Columbia.
His favorite color is blue.
His favorite berry is black.
Read more of his works at www.chrislogan.ca

If you enjoyed this, please sign up to our newsletter.  As a bonus, you’ll get our free ebook, The Dharma on Accomplishing Anything, to help you in your path to excellence!

 

 

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

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

25435_382547132750_501677750_4307582_1649071_n-1

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.

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.

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.

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!

The Happiest Man in the World

Buddha

Matthieu Ricard isn’t your ordinary person. An ex-geneticist who earned his PhD at the Institut Pasteur in Paris in 1972, he renounced the academic life and spent more than three decades training his mind so that we can better understand how to cultivate happiness.

And the results from the latest study of Ricard’s brain are staggering.

Looking at the intrinsic brain activity while meditating on compassion, scientists at the University of Wisconsin have observed the highest levels of gamma waves ever recorded in the neuroscience literature from Ricard’s brain. The study also looked at brain activity of over 100 advanced meditators, many of whom had more than 50,000 rounds of meditation experience. But none were able to reach the level produced by Ricard.

Gamma waves play a vital role in cognitive functioning. Their propagation through the brain acts as a type of neuronal synchronizer, binding together distributed networks and focusing them towards an object of attention. Scientist have proposed that gamma waves are able to resolve the ‘binding problem’ of neuroscience – how sensory information processed in sensory-specific areas of the brain are unified into a single conscious experience. Their role in consciousness is so critical, that if gamma waves stop emitting from an area of the brain called the thalamus, conscious awareness is lost and the person slips into a deep coma.

For Ricard, this implies that he is able to focus and coordinate the endogenous signals of his brain towards a single concept, percept or conscious experience. Whether concentrating on compassion or happiness, it is hard to imagine that in such a state anything but the object of focus is able to enter Ricard’s awareness.

The study also found an extreme asymmetry between brain activity originating from his left prefrontal cortex compared to his right. This asymmetry has been shown to correlate with positive emotions, while it’s counterpart – stronger activity in the right prefrontal cortex – is related to negative emotions. Putting this finding together with the high levels of gamma waves, it suggests that Ricard is able to generate such a focused state of compassion that his brain responds by producing an extreme level of positive emotions.

Despite these results, Ricard says that he is not unique. He teaches that similar levels of compassion can be obtained by anyone willing to take the time and effort. Ricard attributes his incredible abilities to neuroplasticity due to meditation training and is working with scientists around the globe to show how the brain changes its structure and function in response to meditation.

While Ricard’s place as the world’s happiest man is fascinating, the bigger take away from the University of Wisconsin study is that long-term experience with meditation is not necessary to induce neuroplasticity. The scientists found that as little as twenty minutes a day for three weeks can start to reshape the patterns of the brain and increase levels of positive emotions.

The question is – what are you going to do with the next twenty minutes of your day?