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.

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.