Why I’m Here

I just had a nice dream.  I was running a non-profit organization helping under-privileged, inner city youth.  I was teaching them how to build, market, and monetize their own websites, hopefully giving them a chance to earn on their own right.  A couple other kids were practicing their video game skills, hoping to make the majors, major league gaming, that is (oh yeah it’s a real thing).  It doesn’t matter what they might be into, I preach to them these three rules.

1. Find Your Passion – What lies beneath?  In a moment you will be taken away from here, stripped of everything and everyone.  You are now alone, afraid, in the cold night.  Stop and sit with that.  Pause.  Now return.  What are you happy to have back?  What missed opportunity can you now get to work on?

2. Dedicate Yourself To It - Undoubtedly you will have a dream or aspiration tied to your passion.  To make this dream come true you must dedicate yourself to it.  This passion must be planted inside you, a small beautiful plant, in rich, fertile soil.  Such a small seedling can become such a large thing.

3. Practice A Little Each Day – All it takes is a little effort each day to water this plant.  Even if for only five minutes a day, this will be enough.  When you practice everyday, you are telling your mind, your body, and your world that this is important, and you want your dream to come true.

Most of the parents think I am a bit of a hippie or slightly off my rocker, but they don’t mind too much because I provide a nice environment after school, and their kids get free internet to work on their homework.  A couple of parents though, when they shake my hand, they hold on for an extra moment, and their eyes light up.  Maybe I should get some volunteers in here.

The 2 Schools of Buddhism; Theravada and Mahayana

When I attended my first meditation retreat at a local Zen center, one of my aunts pulled me aside and said “Now don’t go getting into a cult, or else we’ll have to come save you!”  I know this comment was mostly in jest, but not completely.  Being a religion native to the Asian and Indian sub-continent, westerners, for the most part, have vague familiarities with Buddhism.  If you feel a strong desire to begin practicing Buddhism, you must first study the choices before you, the most primary being between the two major schools of thought, Theravada and Mahayana.

Theravada Buddhism, also known as the school of the elders, is regarded as the more orthodox of the two schools of Buddhism.  With its lineage and doctrine more closely aligned with the historical Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha, Theravada Buddhism is generally seen as the more pure form of Buddhism.

Mahayana Buddhism, also known as the greater vehicle, came into existence sometime after Theravada Buddhism was firmly entrenched.  Followers of this early revolution wanted to make Buddhism more accessible to the average person, as Theravada Buddhism demands an ascetic lifestyle not realistic to society at large.

The major difference between the two schools has to do with the attainment of nirvana, or reaching the end of suffering.  According to Theravada belief, nirvana is something that just happens and is wholly perfect within each of us.  Just as the original Buddha attained nirvana, so too can anyone achieve nirvana through practice and intention.  Mahayana believes this is too narrow of a goal, and therefore provides a path for the Bodhisattva who delays nirvana in order to help other sentient beings on their journey towards nirvana.

I’ll venture a guess somewhere along the line you’ve heard someone say “Buddhism isn’t a religion, it’s a philosophy.”  Although incorrect, this statement is referring to Theravada Buddhism as it is void of some of the usual characteristics of a religion.  It places little emphasis on iconography, prayer, and spiritual individuals.  The Mahayana tradition however celebrates a diverse collection of historical spiritual leaders, prayers, statues and rituals.

This is a simplified look into these two great schools of Buddhism and is only meant to inform someone of the research and inspection that must be done in order to take their first step down the path of Buddhism.  Theravada or Mahayana?

Focusing The Mind – A Concentration Meditation

buddha-concentration-exercise

The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go. -Atiśa

One of the first ways I learned to focus my mind was a simple yet powerful meditation that is well documented here.

Over time I have adapted it slightly but for the most part it remains a very simple yet effective way to begin the process of traveling down the eightfold path of Buddhism.  Here’s how to begin your own journey down the path of Right Concentration.

1.Choose an object of concentration.  The flame from a candle is very convenient for two important reasons.  Firstly fire tends to hold our attention.  Most people are mesmerized by fire.  Who doesn’t love sitting next to the campfire, while watching the flames dance along?  Secondly a candle’s innate symbolism is that of inspiration and goodness, both important precepts.  With this being said, the object of concentration can really be anything in front of you, so don’t let the absence of a candle stop you.

2.Place the object at eye level and sit down with a straight back.

3.Begin to bring awareness to your breath.  Inhale and exhale slowly and gently.

4.Once you are aware of your breath, focus on a small part of the object.  In the case of a lit candle, you could focus on the tip of the flame.  Continue to be aware of your breath while you focus in on your object of concentration.

5.As you breathe in, imagine the essence of the flame enter you through your heart and as you exhale imagine some of your essence exit through your forehead, just above your brow.  Continue to focus on the flame and imagining the cycle.  In through your heart from the candle, out through your brow, returning to the candle.

6.As you become more accustomed to this practice, begin to deepen your awareness to the oneness you share with your object of concentration.  Imagine that the cycle of your breath with the object allows for a shared existence with it.  This idea will open your eyes to the oneness we share with everything around us.

In preparation for this post, I’ve been practicing this method and I’ve noticed a few things that I might not have known before.  Firstly, the more I slow my breath, the more intense my concentration becomes.  Once in a while I’d even stop my breath, and would notice a corresponding surge in one-pointedness.  Secondly, the shower provides a convenient moment to practice this meditation.  Whatever object I would focus on, as I settled in, I would notice the seemingly endless water droplets.  These small details in turn, helped me strengthen my focus.

Play around with this practice.  Remember not to take yourself too seriously.  Yes, thoughts will invariably arise.  Just notice the thought and then return your focus to your breath and the object.  Start with just a few moments a day, and increase the time as you become more adept.  Have fun, and please share any comments or experiences below.

 

Buddha vs. The Black Hole

Dark To Light

I snapped this pic preparing for my next post, and although it didn’t quite fit into the theme of that post, I definitely wanted to share it.  It’s the negative of a Gautama Buddha next to a small bowl with a flame.  The eyes of Buddha, although closed, appear to be open.  It also makes me think of opposites.  If Buddha is the light, a black hole would definitely be its counterpart.

Live Life As A Dance

Live Life As A Dance

Dancing is our bodies way of telling us to lighten up and live a little.

 

One night I stood in my kitchen, looking at the dirty dishes.  I thought about my wife, and the fact that she’d appreciate me cleaning them, so I started in.  For one reason or another, this night I focused in on what I was doing.  Little else came into my mind, besides these dishes being cleaned, dried, and put away… and my breath.  Inhaling, exhaling.  And then, suddenly, I could hear it, feel it.  A beat.  A rhythm accompanying my chore.  A chore, it seems, no more.

A red measuring cup being soaped up and then rinsed.  Each movement in the joints of my fingers, wrist, arms in sync with the beat.  Maybe I could even spin this measuring cup as I put it down to dry.  Yea, that worked, I even stayed on the beat.  So I started moving my legs to the beat as well.  And then I started showing off.

A plate in my left hand prevented it from aiding my right hand in successfully placing the measuring cup at the bottom of the stack of measuring cups where it belong.  But I had to find an elegant way to finish this dance. I was amazed to discover what I could do next. I started rotating the measuring cups with my fingers, 1 cup, 2/3 cup, 1/4 cup, back and forth, back and forth, until they were correctly aligned. It felt like the quarters trick you see people run across their knuckles. Then I stopped. The dishes were done.

At this time it’s not something I could do indefinitely, but this experience was very powerful. In this moment, this dance, I felt a deep, musical connection with the universe. A bit grandiose? Maybe. But recent discoveries in quantum mechanics tend to agree.

Gone are the days of the atomic model where particles maintain an elliptical orbit around a nucleus.  Theoretical physicists now know that electrons make their way around the nucleus in their very own vibrational fields. And what characteristic do these fields have? Harmonic oscillation just like a guitar string. The universe, it seems, is filled with an infinite number of microscopic instruments. Why not dance along to their music?

Give the dance a try and leave a comment as to your own findings. May your happiness be plenty but your attachments few!

 

 

 

Sharpen Your Focus To Get What You Desire

Sharpen The Focus

If Life Is Cutting With A Knife, Focus Is Sharpening The Blade

 

I always scored at the top of my class in school.  Although I am grateful for this, it did create a problem.  I had too many paths I could have taken and consequently stalled a bit.

But as I became more time-worn by life, I began to figure out my path.  I own and operate several websites and I owe my success to focus.  For the first five years, my online exploits were fruitless, banging my head against a wall.  Just as in school, I was all over the place, trying to learn this but do that.  But then, finally, I focused my efforts, concentrated on one thing and in less than a year, my first site was a success.  To this day, I have to remind myself that it was focus that lead me here.

Think about what you want.  Close your eyes.  It shouldn’t be too far from the surface, usually our desires rise quickly to the top.  Did you find it?  Money? Love? Fame?  Whatever it might be, here, it’s yours, you can have it.  Now you just need to earn it.

Find a way to focus in on achieving what you desire. An important part to making something real is showing yourself and others how much you want it.  It can’t remain in your head, it has to go beyond thought, and translate not only to your body, but also the world around you.  A simple example might be pairing the desire to lose weight with daily exercise.  If you want a promotion, maybe you think of a way to become a more valued asset and then dedicate yourself to working on it every day.  Even if for only 5 minutes a day, the repetition becomes a very powerful force, like gravity, and eventually, just as with gravity, it will fall towards you.

If you give up, you did not want it that badly, and might try to think of something new.  Or just try again.  As long as your heart beats, there’s no such thing as failure.  Focus on your desire, and how to prove you deserve it. Eventually it will come to you.

Take the first step in focusing in on your desire and making it real, by commenting below.  What do you desire and how will you focus?