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Archive for August, 2010

I have been continuing on my choice to live a more simple and clear path, it has been going well. I have been sober for almost a month now (man, time is going by really fast) and I must admit that I am feeling a difference, the biggest being that I am able to sustain a more dedicated practice. It is must easier to stay focused on meditation when you are not buzzed out almost every evening, I am able to see why the Buddha had included avoiding substances that can lead to heedlessness. For those of you just tuning in, I have been doing this little “experiment” to help me feel more grounded and centered, and also to develop a more solid and deeper practice. The only time that I felt the most dedicated is when I was taking the Group Facilitator and Meditation Instructor training with Noah Levine in LA, during that year I followed the Five Precepts and lived a more simple life out of default (four trips to LA will make someone live more simply to be able to afford the plane tickets etc.). For those of you who are not familiar with Buddhism and meditation practice, the five precepts are what most laypeople will follow to facilitate practice. Monks in Buddhism usually follow more precepts, it can vary in numbers depending on the tradition and lineage (for example, in Zen it is ten), I find that five is enough to incorporate in the world, we don’t have the advantage as householders to submerge ourselves in a community like the monasteries.
The five precepts are:
1. Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.
2. Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
3. Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.
4. Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.
5. Suramerayamajja pamadatthana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.

These are simple rules that help us live a moral life, but it is easier said than done! I actually have no problem with the first three, I am vegan so killing is not an issue with me. I know that we can get into the debate that I must kill some bugs when I am walking around the city, or that I killed carrots and other veggies to make food (why is it that people always use carrots as their example of vegetables? I wonder if people related to them more because they are yanked out of the ground by their “hair” or whatever.). Stealing has never been an issue with me, except maybe for the one time that I stole a chocolate bar as a kid and my dad made me go back to the pharmacy to give it back to the store clerk (a life lesson that I will always remember, always easier to do this as a child and not an adult, feels like it was such an after-school special sometimes). The closest that I get to this one would be downloading music on the internet, but I find that this is still a gray area. I find that this has just become a new version of the classic tape trading that I use to do when I was younger, except that this is not just with friends but with the world. I also don’t partake in sexual misconduct, this is a greatly debated and gray area of the precepts, I will write about this some other time. I am reading right now the new book by Brad Warner which is talking about sex in Buddhism and focuses greatly on this debate. I can, however, guarantee that there has been no misconduct on my part, even if sometimes I kind of wish that I could.

Gossiping I must admit is the hardest precept to follow, it is crazy how we gossip and don’t even realize it. I had a very difficult conversation with someone this weekend, I had to clear up somethings with this person about why we no longer do a meditation group together. I had always thought that this was already clear, but I guess I tried to spare this person’s feelings to the point that it was hard to understand what I was saying. I find that skillful speech has always been tricky, taking the gloves off when talking to someone is sometimes the best thing, but not the easiest. When I decided to do this, it was maybe too late and has definitely caused a rift, this person has stated that they no longer trust me and we are no longer friends. I am glad that things are clear, no matter the consequence, and now I can move on and focus on what I am doing. This is something that I feel I will always be working on, if you are reading this and thinking “it is easy to practice right speech and not gossip about anyone, etc.”, for the next week try to note every time you gossip about someone or pussy foot around something with someone to spare their feelings, you will be surprised by how long your list will be! The more I become mindful of this, the more I surprise myself by how much I do this.

The last precept has been going well since I have decided to cut out alcohol and drugs out of my life, but when I was drinking I must admit that it is challenging. We have all had the nights that we wish could not of happened due to a drunken mistake, being accountable for the actions that we do while intoxicated is an ordeal most of the time. I don’t think that I need to explain the merits of this precept in living a moral life, or at least, we all know someone who would be ready to vouch for this.

I think that I have babbled enough for now, I should get back to reading the new Brad Warner book. I will be doing a review of this book on Full Contact Enlightenment, my friend Tanya’s blog, you should really check it out. Tanya is one cool person, and she has really great things to say on Buddhism and anything that can relate to the Dharma Punk nation and way of life! Check it out and stay tuned for my review, lets hope that I make Tanya proud!

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It has been almost two weeks since I have decided to live a more simple life, it has been going well I must say. I have renounced alcohol and frivolous spending (something that I did a lot I noticed lately) and trying to feel more grounded with a more dedicated practice. This renunciation has been really great for my practice, first of all, seeing as I don’t drink I am able to sit everyday (I like to meditate at the end of my day, so with booze that is not always an easy feat) which is really great. I find that I am feeling more grounded simply because I have time to sit on a regular basis and take sometime to turn inward. For those of you who maybe are not familiar with meditation practice and renunciation practice, let me explain briefly.

When the Siddhartha Gautama (dude known as the Buddha) left his parents palace, he started hanging out with ascetics. These dudes were really hardcore about their renunciation, they would abstain from all worldly pleasures, they did not see this lifestyle as virtuous but as a means to prepare the ground for a mind-body transformation. This practice is not only in Buddhism, all major spiritual paths and religions have a renunciation doctrine ( for example, Christianity would call their concept of chastity as their renunciation practice). The dudes that Siddhartha was hanging out with were extreme, hardly eating (it is said that Siddhartha had gotten to the point that he was eating one grain of rice a day during his time with them), they believed that this was necessary in preparing the mind and body for enlightenment. This freedom from compulsions and temptations would leave the person more open to their enlightenment experience when it would arrive after much dedicated practice.  Siddhartha eventually rejected asceticism because it was an impediment to ultimate freedom from suffering, the path needed to meet the needs of the body without crossing over into excess and luxury. It is when Siddhartha left the extreme asceticism he was able to achieve enlightenment, it is here that the middle way was created. An ordained monk is meant to live the life of a renunciate, they are meant to have life’s basic requirements: food, water, clothing, shelter; to live life safely and healthy, to not be troubled by illness and weakness. This is to provide a lifestyle that is not concerned with the material circumstances of life to engage in religious practice. In the end, to have adequate possessions is regarded as being no more desirable than having too many.

I must admit that I am far from living the life of a monk, but our lives are so full of material circumstances in our society that even just abstaining from a few things helps us to live a more simple life that is more dedicated to examining our relationships towards those objects. I must admit that it has been quite funny at times also ( picture me struggling with the purchase of a magazine in a Chapters, a magazine for Christ’s sake!), I realized just how much I would reward myself with material goods for a whole list of things. I had moments where I really struggled to not buy a cd, book, or even magazine to reward myself (or more specifically comfort myself with instant gratification) for the most mundane reasons. We are in a society that encourages us to consume, the acquisition of material goods gives us more worth and is necessary if we want to feel that we are successful members of society. I realized just how good I had become at justifying reasons for drinking or consuming whatever material good that would give me instant (however impermanent) joy. Noticing these relationships that I have towards my habits has definitely helped me reconnect with myself and really evaluate what I view as necessary in my life, and what can be considered to be excessive.

The best thing that has happened since the beginning of this is that my practice has definitely become stronger and I am a much more dedicated practitioner, I have started reading more on the dharma and taking time to truly reflect on my practice and what place it holds in my life. It is really great, and kind of funny, that when I have decided to be more dedicated again that I might have an opportunity to really dive into a serious practice. I have decided to go see my teacher (Noah Levine) at Kripalu in a couple of weeks for a weekend workshop, when I called him to let him know that I was going he asked me if I would be interested in taking his teacher training over the next three years. I took his Meditation Instructor and Group Facilitator training about two years ago, I have been leading a Dharma Punx group in Montreal, and this would be the logical next step. I must admit that I did a lot of soul-searching about this, this is a big commitment and do I really want to be a dharma teacher? This training would empower me to teach dharma, this is something that I have wanted for a while (I have been reflected on why I want to do this exactly, making sure that I do this for the right reasons) I plan on discussing this with him when I see him, I do not want to do this for any wrong reasons, I want to make sure that I am ready to truly dedicate myself to this and not just go through the motions.

I have also been looking into volunteering more, I still volunteer at the prison with the evening meditation, but I want to try to give more. I have been looking into helping street kids, I am just waiting from answers by the organizations that I have contacted. I have been patient, not trying to just get whatever opportunity calls back first, I want to find something that I know will be important to me so I can truly give myself to the people and actions. I find that I have ranted enough for now, but I will keep sharing whatever experiences will happen (however mundane they may seem at times) in the days that follow…

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I have taken a resolution to live a simple and clean life for the next three months, if is isn’t necessity I will remind myself that I don’t need it. I will try to spend most of my free time in service to others and of course myself. I will deepen my spiritual practice, I will walk the middle path and not stand irresolute. I have noticed that I have been living a life that is not healthy and productive, I am running from one pleasurable experience to another and getting myself into some pretty serious financial trouble at the same time. This lifestyle has left me with a lonely feeling, cut off from the world around me, feeling disconnected from everything around me. I have always wanted to live a humble life, finding the joy in simple connections that are made with the things and people around you, not trying to create your reality, but simply accepting and appreciating what is around me. I was lucky enough to meet someone who I greatly respect this last week and he talked to me about the life that he lived, a musician that travels with his acoustic guitar and lives in a shed with it own vegetable garden when he is home. We talked about the social changes that we would like to see in the world, for us and even more for future generations, we came to the conclusion that we all want the same things in life (a roof over our heads, clothes, good food, an education, and health care). Somehow people always think that they have the solution and that other people’s solutions are not valid, so we push our vision onto others as what is the “right way” of doing things. This got me to thinking, about my life and how I have spent most of it seeking comfort out of physical objects, numbing my senses with drugs or alcohol; but never taking the time to really look inward to see what I could find. I have been practicing meditation for a while now, but feel that I am losing my way and really need to sit regularly and live the life that I am seeking through this practice. My best practice came when I stopped consuming alcohol and drugs for a year, I was also not really able to spend money because I was always going to California to take courses.

I am hoping that this shift will help me find balance and clarity in my life, to reconnect to a world that seems far away right now, to have moment to moment awareness that will help me find this connection that has been lost. The root of this decision comes from a song by Tim Barry, the artist that I met, wrote called Wait At Milano, it is extremely powerful and I find that it speaks volumes about us as a culture and society, and especially me… I will be writing about my struggles and observations during this next three months on this blog, I hope that you all enjoy what I will have to say and I hope that it may help inspire more people give themselves this same challenge. I hope to let that lonely feeling go…

Here is the song that inspired this shift, hope that you all enjoy it:

Lyrics:

You feel like life’s too long
And its cadence is all wrong
Leave your step in time
But change your way

Can’t make everything right now
And there is sense in slowing down
When you leave this world alone
What will you take

If what you seek ain’t free then steal it
If ain’t necessity you don’t need it
Just leave what’s left for who comes next

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