Thursday, June 13, 2013

Setting Boundaries

As children our parents are suppose to teach us how to make good decisions for ourselves.  More often than not, they make the decision for the children and tell him or her “Do this because I said so.”  This of course removes the opportunity to learn the decision making process.  

Many lower level jobs are designed to remove the possibility of error by employees by having the administration make all the decisions and the worker bees carry them out.  Unfortunately as we age, one’s ability to make good decisions is assumed when this is not always the case.

When one has low self esteem and self love, their confidence in their own basic ability to make decisions can be shaken.  They can be brilliant at what they do for a career choice, but in their personal lives, they are whipped around by more confident and manipulative people.

When they do seek out advice which is typical since they do not trust their own ability, the advice should always be in the form of a learning opportunity.  The Four Noble Truths of course is the Buddhist decision making tool which works wonderfully.  By walking through this tool with them and also using the Eightfold Path and Six Perfections, you will not infringe on their free will to decide for themselves.  (Links to information about these teaching tools )  But remember that just because they come to the “appropriate” decision, it does not mean they will act upon it at that moment.
When their own personal pain is unbearable, then they will act.  No one can move them until they are ready to move themselves.  You can however be supportive during the process. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

It’s All a Game

Life – it’s all a game.  Some believe there are winners and losers in life.  Those that have the wealth and power, the one percent, they are the “winners”.  Those that live below the poverty line are the “losers.”  The vast number of people between the two extremes – well we might be bluffing to stay in the game.  With a couple good hands we may win the pot and be able to continue playing or we may fold.

But living in the one percent is not without its problems.  In many ways, one becomes cut off from the rest of the world, typically this is by choice.  Their vision of reality becomes distorted and their ability to relate to normal life becomes challenged.  You may scoff at this and say “I’d like to give life in the one percent a try anyway.  I’d rather have the pain of too much money rather than too little.”  

Both extremes tend to have the same fears.
  • Security.  If you are living on the street or in a very poor neighborhood, security is an issue.  Robbery, shootings, and home invasions are problems.  This is also true for the one percent in their gated communities with security systems and guard dogs.
  • Drug usage is a serious problem for both groups.  One group’s drugs may be a bit purer than the other’s but all of it kills and destroys live. 
  • Lack of jobs.  The poor typically would like one but often lack the skills to obtain one.  The wealthy don’t need them.  So both groups have too much time on their hands and lack sources of self esteem and satisfaction from doing something constructive with their lives.  
  • Poor health.  The poor lack nutritional food and the wealthy become ill because of the richness of their food.

We could go on with these comparisons but what is the point?  The point is that moderation is the key – the middle way, as it was so aptly put thousands of years ago by the Buddha.

A recent research study found that an income of $50,000 was the break point at which we are the happiest in the US.  Above that income other issues kick in and we no longer feel as happy.

What if you actively chose to cut your consumption of everything by 50%, find your own middle way so to speak?  
  • Drive 50% less and walk, ride a bicycle, or take public transportation instead. 
  • Eat 50% less – cutting out those items that are less healthy
  •  Spend 50% less time plugged into the vast array of available electronics and more time reading and really being present with our family and friends.
  • Reduce busy work by 50% and more time spent in meditation or meditative activities like gardening.
  • Consuming 50% less material goods and saving the money that would have been spent for a rainy day, retirement, or helping others.
The game of life would be so much easier to play and be so much more rewarding if we only cut everything we do and consume by half.  A great place to start is by reducing the amount of complaining you do by 50% and increase your listening by the same amount.  Vow that for one day a week, you will not complain about anything at all.  Instead you will just smile and laugh at the situations that would typically trigger the complaint.  Gradually extend this to two days a week, then three until the complaining behavior is extinguished.  You will discover the joy of being relieved of this burden.
  • Go through everything you own and clear out everything you have not used in the last year or two.  Donate it to a charity so that the items can benefit others and DON”T replace those items with more things.
  • Talk to your neighbors, beyond just waving hello.  Get to know them for who they are.  Help each other out.
  • Find a sangha; this is a group of people that you can discuss ways of spiritual growth and development. Find a mentor, a teacher that you can relate to.  Find your connection to that which connects us all.
This is the way of the middle path.  This is the way to contentment.  Contentment breeds happiness.  Change the rules of your game and you change your life.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Day – What We Should Really Be Thankful For

Most countries have a day set aside for some semblance of Thanksgiving. Obviously, here in the US, it is the third Thursday of November.  Unfortunately, the tradition of Thanksgiving has devolved into gorging on food, watching parades and football on TV, and preparing to spend lots of money on Black Friday. This year a great number of stores are opening from 10 to 12 PM on Thanksgiving so shoppers don’t have to wait to part with their money.

Yes, it is traditional for families to come together to partake of the feast, how many of them are even thinking about giving thanks for anything?  What we really should be giving thanks for on this special day and every day is the opportunity to start anew each day. Be thankful for waking up and experiencing being alive one more day, for each day we have the gift of life.

We can choose how that day will be.  We may not be able to control the events of the day but we can control our response to those events.  We can choose to roll with it and call it “all good”” or we can fight it and call it “stupid, bad, unfair, unjust or against me.”  The exact same events can be given any of these labels depending on how you choose to see it.

So if you want to be genuinely happy then make a conscious effort to do so.  With conscious effort what might be considered a “bad day” can easily be transformed into a “good day.”

Be thankful for the opportunity to right any of your past wrongs.  Be thankful for others in your life even if the only person you talk to is the mailman. Be thankful for all you have and all you have not, today and every day. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Garage Sales

Most people have been to at least one garage sale at some time in their life.  Perhaps you have even held one yourself to clear out unwanted items and clutter from your home.  Such sales are interesting analogies for life in general.  You go through your home collecting odds and ends that have lost their utility and meaning for you.  Then you try to sell them to someone else to squeeze the last bit of value out of each one.

The potential buyers are interesting as well.  There are those that show up before the appointed start time to catch you off guard and try to obtain the highest quality items for less than the posted price.  Often these people will then turn around and immediately sell the same items for several times what they paid.

Don’t we sometimes do this ourselves in other situations?  We might try to skirt the rules and get something for less.  This is a “seller beware” mentality.  Of course the opposite “buyer beware” mentality exists, too.  Either way, the behavior, although it might not be illegal, it is also not spiritually pure.  

What is the difference between ethical behavior and spiritually pure behavior?  Every business course/book has an ethics chapter dealing with how one should behave in that specific discipline.  The problem is the recommended course of action is designed to keep the practitioner and company out of jail.

“Do no harm” is a common stance.  While this is commendable, it does not go far enough.  “Do the highest good” is much better for the life and cohesion of the planet.  This reflects spiritually pure action.

Individual and institutional egos encourage employees to get the most out of a potential sale that they can –again “buyer beware.”  Many will justify these actions as “It is just business, what you have to do to be successful.”  But is this really true?  Win-lose transactions are just that. One side is boosted up at the cost of the other.  This is NEVER healthy for either side.  This is true for business and it is true in relationships in our private lives.

When we extend our hand to help rather that trick, pull people up with us instead of stepping on them to get to the top, then we all win.  Ultimately, this is the best scenario.  Unfortunately, you often hear the argument “It is not my responsibility to care for others.”  Or “The only responsibility a company has is to make money for its investors.” These views are more than just shallow, they are dangerous.

They are dangerous to the ones who hold the view because it hardens their hearts to the plight of others.  The “others” are actually extensions of themselves, since we are all part of the same whole.   So in reality, when we take advantage of someone else, we are only harming ourselves.

I realize that those who practice win-lose behaviors do not buy this argument.  It is hard to understand it  when they are living in their mansions, driving fine cars and consuming the highest quality of everything, while the “others” are out of sight and out of mind.

I encourage everyone to spend time helping out in a soup kitchen or visiting poor neighborhoods to see the direct impact of greed and disadvantage.  Hopefully, the experience will trigger an awakening of consciousness that will move a small step forward toward healing the planet.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Which Religion Gets it Right?

Ever since man began to walk upright and have a language that could be used to form independent creative thoughts, religion has existed.  The belief systems were as varied as the number of cultural groups.  Today around the globe there are hundreds of religions that believe they have the true understanding of faith.

Which one is correct?  The truth is that all are correct – in their own way for their own people.  Does it matte

It is the core of the beliefs that is critical for humanity to survive together.  That central core IS the same- love a higher power or connecting energy and love and respect your fellow man.  The rest of the rules are just trappings to control the behaviors and thoughts of the followers.

Do not fear to be free.  Free to believe only that which makes sense to you in your heart-of-hearts.  But beware of the blinders of greed, ego and fear are that blind us to the truth and color our interpretation of truth which impacts our decisions

The ego made belief that one religion is more perfect or that specific adherents are the “chosen ones” is dangerous.  The belief that people must follow a prescribed activity in order to be happy for eternity, after the physical body has died, is dangerous.  One needs only to turn on the radio and listen to the news to know this is true.  This erroneous belief in exclusivity has caused more suffering and death since the dawn of man than any other belief.
It is time to stop the lie and change the dialogue.  Remove the obstacles from your eyes of prejudice and see the truth.  Every human is made exactly the same.  We are all born with the same number of organs.  We walk upright not slithering on our bellies.  We all have brains to think and hearts to modify the thoughts of the brain.  Outward appearances are just ways of distinguishing family groupings, no different than the unique strip patterns of zebras so that the young can find its mother in the herd to suckle.

The “enemy” is not one who looks or believes differently.  The “enemy” is the lie that tells us we are different.  Remove the lie and the world lives in peace and harmony.  It is that simple.

We are one not many.
We are the same not distinct.
We are forever joined from the past, in the present and will be in the future, as one.
Killing another human being is the same as cutting off a part of yourself.  The repercussions are felt as a ripple throughout the human herd.

So what can one individual person do?  Change your view of separateness into one of sameness.  Your behavior and thought patterns will naturally change too.  If you change your view, others around you will be influenced to change their view.  Eventually like dominos, we will all lie touching each other in the connected chain that we are.

Be brave.  Change your view.  Start the dominos to fall in your circle of influence.  Your circle will impact many other circles which will impact even more.  Peace is possible if we change our view now. 
We are one not many.