Be careful with words. 

What we heedlessly say 

may haunt others the rest of their lives. 

We all know the feeling. Someone we admire or trust inadvertently says something, and it feels like she just slapped us. Caught completely off-guard, we may say something, but more likely we’re too dazed to. The moment passes, and the person moves on to another topic. Slowly we recover, but the pain remains.

We may not think of what the person said for years until something triggers the memory and those words rise anew. And with them the pain. Thus etched in our memory, we realize what was said so long ago has the power to haunt us for the rest of our life, arising unbidden at the strangest, most seemingly unrelated provocation. Had the person realized her casually-spoken words would cause us such pain, would hound us with their needless presence, she wouldn’t have dreamed of saying them.

She just didn’t think.

We can.

And need to.


To learn from our teachers,

we need to be near them every day. 

We might well wonder how on earth we’re supposed to be near our teachers daily. Sure, up to the last century or so, people could have done this simply by spending all their lives in the same place. In the East, many temples and monasteries were within easy reach of residents. But today, primarily in the West, there are far fewer Buddhist centers and monastics.

Being near our teachers daily seems impossible.

The key here is understanding “near them.”

Not surprisingly, we assume it means physical proximity—living in the same place as our teacher. But “near them” refers not to teacher’s physical presence but to his or her teachings. It’s the teachings we need to be near. And being near the teachings is to learn and live them daily. We could stand right next to a teacher all day long, but if we’re not learning from, not following what he says, we’re not “near” him. We’re just taking up valuable space.


All too easily, 

harmless indulgences can become addictions.  

That cup of coffee in the morning to get us going, dinner at our favorite restaurant to celebrate good news, the weekend get-away to mark a difficult job we’ve just completed. Harmless indulgences? Or something else? The coffee, special dinner, get-away seem so innocent. And they can be if we do not become dependent on them. But if we feel we can’t function without the coffee, can’t relax after finishing a job without the usual dinner or weekend away, we’re in trouble.

Addictions or not just for addicts.

When a harmless indulgence morphs into something we can’t function without, when it seems our good news and finished job remain incomplete and somehow diminished without the reward, that we’re still wanting, then we’ve slipped over the line. We’ve left enjoying something to feeling unable to move on without it. We’ve upped the level of the reward to where, very soon, we’ll need more.

We’ve entered our own little world of addiction.


When we have expectations, 

the most beautiful rose will prove disappointing. 

Without them, the simple violet can be perfection. 

Having preconceived ideas, we set ourselves up for disappointment.

The real world around us will never match the imaginary one we carry within us in our world of remembrances and desires. With our thoughts of an anticipated outcome, the most beautiful rose in the world will dishearten anyone who carries a preconceived image of what it should look like.

Without desires and anticipation, we can appreciate the simple violet as an object of incredible beauty, our wonder and delight enhanced by our suddenly coming upon it. Not having to meet a preconceived standard, it achieves perfection simply by existing. If, somehow, we could let go of anticipation, we would be able to explore the world as young children investigate everything in their small piece of it. Too young for preconceived ideas, they take newly-found delight in whatever they stumble upon.

Without expectations, so can we.