Friday
Nov172017

Every moment in time is unique, 

and unrepeatable.  

Being unawakened beings, upon recalling an enjoyable experience, we often find ourselves musing about how delighted we felt at the time. And so we try to recapture the feeling by duplicating what happened. But we can’t.

The conditions that caused it—people, places, objects, our thoughts—all came together for a brief instant. In a flash, they changed because everything in samsara flows in constant flux. The conditions may be similar, but never identical. Besides, even if they were, our expectations would add a new variable to the old equation.

Repeating what happened and the enjoyment we felt would become all the more impossible.

So rather than try to recreate the magical thermos of coffee delightedly sipped on that long drive home, be grateful for the coffee you’re savoring. If the old memory arises, observe it but don’t crave to repeat it.

You can’t, and that’s fine.

Monday
Nov132017

Adorn yourself not with the gems of this world 

but with those of the Western Pure Land. 

In samsara, people have long adorned themselves and their dwellings with precious metals and gems. The more good fortune they had, the more wealth they acquired, the more gold, silver, etc. they could amass.

Precious metals and gems, including gold, silver, lapis lazuli, and crystal, exist in the Western Pure Land too. But in that land, they are enjoyed by all and are not mere compounded elements. In that land, they are virtues. Arising from Amitabha Buddha’s mind and the minds of all the beings there, the virtues are so prolific they manifest everywhere. 

Which virtues?

Permanence, which occurs when beings use their pure mind.

Joy, which arises from practicing and learning daily.

True self, which is to control one’s thoughts and, thus, attain great freedom.

And purity, the mind free of attachments.

Why seek to possess physical gems for a few brief years, when in the Pure Land, we will permanently attain real gems?

Thursday
Nov092017

Do not judge others for their choices. 

They may be doing better with their options 

than we are with ours. 

Visualize a man and a woman standing in a supermarket check-out line on a snowy winter day.

The man, drinking coffee from his thermos, is buying conventionally-grown frozen corn, frozen raspberries, dry beans, and day-old bread.

The woman has organic corn-on-the-cob, mangoes, wild-raised salmon, still warm Ciabatta bread, and sips a latte from the coffee shop.

Looking at the man’s shopping basket, she congratulates herself on her superior choices. But the man selected produce listed by the EWG as safe to buy non-organic; US-grown fruit frozen when fresh; inexpensive, high protein food; whole wheat bread baked only one day ago, and his organic fair-trade coffee was made at home. The woman chose an out-of-season vegetable, imported fruit, expensive protein, white bread, and non-fair-trade coffee in a single-use cup.

We need to pay attention to our own choices, not those of others.

Sunday
Nov052017

When pursuing something enjoyable, remember 

“All phenomena are illusory.”

When avoiding something unpleasant, remember 

“All phenomena are illusory.” 

Most of us spend a great deal of time chasing what we believe will make us happy and evading what we fear will cause us suffering. But in fact, both chasing and evading cause suffering.

In Buddhism, we learn that all phenomena—all things, events, relationships—are unreal and impermanent. Good times and favorable conditions are not real because they don’t last. Thankfully, the same applies to bad times and unfavorable conditions.

Even though we may understand the principle, when we have yet to embrace the reality that nothing here in samsara continues forever, we will continue to suffer. If we accept that phenomena are always in flux and stop trying to force everything to conform to our wishes, we will stop struggling.

Struggling causes the suffering.

Acceptance and patience ease the suffering.

Wednesday
Nov012017

Changing habits is like walking a tightrope. 

Having a habit puts me in mind of a tightrope (and the hope that this isn’t a wandering thought).

Having done something many times, we feel confident in doing it again. Focused on our goal, we move ahead without any misstep as if walking a familiar tightrope. Acting from habits is very similar. Having repeatedly done something, we go forward without thinking, undeterred and confident we’re doing the right thing.

Until, hopefully, the day we realize this approach hasn’t really worked all that well for us because we have, indeed, been making missteps. And so we attempt to make corrections. But because we are now trying to do things differently, our steps become hesitant as we first blunder in one direction, then in correcting ourselves flounder too far in the other direction. We lurch back and forth, and sometimes even fall down, in our attempts to act more thoughtfully.

As long as we persevere, we will reach the point where our actions become not only confident, but correct.