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Archive for the ‘Middle Path’ Category

This week I was faced with a question/dilemma/problem, it was all born out of a harmless comment in someone’s eyes I am sure, but these words maybe me look within and turn to the dharma for guidance. The dharma has never steered me wrong, it has always cleared everything up for me, but this case was not immediately cleared and I am asking all of you. What is right speech? And what does it mean to practice right speech? Let me put everyone to speed, I find that most will see how it is not as easy as one might think.

I was at work, a good day, I was wearing a new Fred Perry polo (I must admit that I am a total fan of this clothing line, bordering on obsession!) and one of my bosses was also wearing a new Fred Perry sweater. I always feel a certain feeling of joy when I wear a new item by this designer and I can see that I am not the only one that feels that way when we find that awesome shirt and get to share it with those around us. My boss was wearing a colour that some might say was more “effeminate” than the green that I was wearing. A colleague of mine asked me if I had seen his new sweater and I said yes in a tone that clearly stated my approval of his new digs, he then proceeded to say “I asked him if he switched teams and this is his way of telling us”, and this is where my debate and reflection starts. Is it right speech for me to call him on his homophobic statement and get to question why he thinks that first of all being gay is derogatory, that the colour that we were explains our sexual orientation, and lastly, seeing as how he is newly a father, what kind of role model is he being for his son and how he will view the world in the future.

Right speech is usually understood as one of the ethical conducts in the eightfold path as:

Right speech is the first principle of ethical conduct in the eightfold path. Ethical conduct is viewed as a guideline to moral discipline, which supports the other principles of the path. This aspect is not self-sufficient, however, essential, because mental purification can only be achieved through the cultivation of ethical conduct. The importance of speech in the context of Buddhist ethics is obvious: words can break or save lives, make enemies or friends, start war or create peace. Buddha explained right speech as follows: 1. to abstain from false speech, especially not to tell deliberate lies and not to speak deceitfully, 2. to abstain from slanderous speech and not to use words maliciously against others, 3. to abstain from harsh words that offend or hurt others, and 4. to abstain from idle chatter that lacks purpose or depth. Positively phrased, this means to tell the truth, to speak friendly, warm, and gently and to talk only when necessary.

As one quickly understands, this is aimed at the individual and the actions that the individual does in the world. I am really questioning, if we are to practice engaged buddhism, if this act of calling people out on their racist or homophobic comments not a part of right speech. It is slanderous speech, the words that are used are malicious and create a world where it is Ok to use homophobia as an insult towards someone. I have always had a hard time when people use terms like faggot to joke around when someone is not being manly enough or good at a certain task, to the point that I am seen as a hyper sensitive person that has no sense of humour because I object to the fact that this term is being used. I should know that it is not what they mean and should not take it so seriously, I find the phenomenon of the normalisation of hate to be a plague in our society and assures that prejudice will continue for many generations to come.

What I wish I said to my co-worker, instead of simply ignoring the homophobic statement and saying that I was glad that at least one person had taste in clothing in the office, I wish I would have asked him first of all why he finds homosexuality to be derogatory, that he should take some time to reflect on what kind of role model is he being for his newborn son, and how would he react if one day he learns that his son was gay (would his vocabulary change)? I find that it is important to study the normalization of hate in our society, language is an extremely subtle tool for hate, the more we hear something the easier it is for us to use it in the same context. I am trying to be as mindful and aware with my dharma practice, so why would I not stand up to hate and respond with love, teaching others how they can be less hateful on a daily basis? I find that it is my duty to stand up and call people out on their ignorant comments, that is what right speech is, speaking out to help others suffer less. I owe it to my colleague to let him know what happened to me when he uttered what he believed to be “harmless” words, I owe it to him, and I especially owe it to his son!

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Another year is done; 2011 taught me a lot of things and I look forward to the lessons 2012 will hold, the new year is always a time of reflection for most people. It is a time for people to look back on the last year, to see what were the highlights and what could have been different. This is where I should be sharing with you my “resolution” for the upcoming year to help better myself, this is usually characterised with a statement based on eating better or exercising more, instead of having a specific action planned at “fixing” something that I don’t like about myself I have decided to be kinder in all aspects of my life. I have decided to go against our divided society where the body is relegated to the gym, work to the office, healing to the hospital, leisure being related to two weeks of vacation, and the sacred being linked to weekly visits to church or temple. I will follow Jack Kornfield and the message of his new book, the wholeness of awakening.

All aspects of my life will be the field of my practice, the place to find freedom and compassion, every part of my life is sacred. It is this life, my work, my family, my community which are the only place for awakening. In Zen it is called “no part left out”. All parts of our human experience must be included in an awakened life. The Buddha explained that awakening and freedom are found:

When sitting, standing, walking, and lying down;

through right speech, right action, right livelihood;

inwardly and outwardly,

with the whole body, feelings, mind, and relationships;

in solitude and community;

in prison, hut, farm, or palace;

in times of war or peace;

in sickness and in health.

Our lives provide the perfect conditions for awakening freedom and compassion. Enlightenment will not be found in some meditation hall hidden in the mountains, it is only found where you are. There is thus a way of moving wisely and graciously through the world, bestowing blessings and happiness to yourself and others, in hard times as well as good times. This freedom can be found once we learn to quiet the mind and open the heart. This is the purpose of meditation. Mindfulness does not reject experience, it lets it be the teacher. Mindfulness allows one enter the difficulties in their own lives, and find the healing and freedom that one is searching.

This year I will be doing Metta practice (for those of you unaware of this practice I will be presenting it in my next post) everyday for a complete year, I look forward to sharing with you the ride that will be this intense loving-kindness practice. I look forward to my experiences uncovering new truths about myself, I bow to my teacher that is life and look forward to interacting with it! Stay tuned and try to be kind to everyone that you encounter along your personal path, even if it may seem impossible at times…

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Bodhi Day is a Buddhist holiday commemorating the day that the Buddha achieved enlightenment, which is translated as Bodhi in Sanskrit or Pali.  Bodhi Day is always celebrated on the 8th day of the 12th lunar month, this is what is believed was the day that Siddhartha Gautama while sitting under the Bodhi tree became the Buddha. Sid, who was born in a very noble and privileged Hindu family, left his material comforts in the search for answers to the problem of suffering, specifically old age, sickness and death. He thus sought bodhi through meditation, self-mortification, and practicing other austerities.

After several years of intense practice, he realized that bodhi was to be found through meditation, but through a Middle Way, away from the extremes of self-mortification and self-indulgence. The story goes that he meditated in Bodh Gaya (I am sure that you have all heard of the famous Bodhi Tree that is supposed to have been grown from an original branch of the tree that rested atop of the Buddha, it is one of the main pilgrimage sites for Buddhists from all over the world) under a peepal tree (a species of Banyan fig), now famously known as the Bodhi tree, and resolved to continue meditating until he achieved bodhi (enlightenment). It is believed that after 49 days of continuous meditation, Gautama achieved bodhi (enlightenment) at the age of 35. Since then he was known as the Buddha (‘enlightened one’). In other words, he kicked Mara’s ass and was freed from the shackles of suffering.

In Buddhism, Māra is the demon that tempted Siddhartha Gautama by trying to seduce him with the vision of beautiful women who, in various legends, are often said to be Mara’s daughters. In Buddhist cosmology, Mara personifies unwholesome impulses, unskilfulness, the “death” of the spiritual life. He is a tempter, distracting humans from practicing the spiritual life by making the mundane alluring or the negative seem positive. We have all wrestled with Mara at one point in our lives, I know that I do it on a daily basis, I just keep working on not giving Mara too much power in my life and how I act within the world. I am sure that everyone that has attempted to sit and meditate has tasted the allure of what Mara has thrown at them, the important part and what I try to do every time is simply to say “I see you Mara” and keep on keeping on.

People usually celebrate and commemorate this day with meditation, studying the Dharma, chanting sutras (Buddhist texts) or by doing kind acts towards others. I find that all these activities are all great ways to commemorate this moment, I also find that it is a great time to reflect on what has brought us to this practice and what keeps us going on this path… So why not take some time today to sit and meditate on our practice and how we are progressing on the path. I know that I like to check in on my practice at least once a year and I can’t think of a better time than now. So take a moment to reflect and renew your effort towards your practice and the path that you have chosen, if you do not practice meditation or the dharma, there isn’t a better time than now to start!

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Tonight I got a call from my parents, these calls have become so mechanical and sterile that it seems to be affecting me more and more as times goes. Always conversations about what other people are doing, what new “stuff” they got, and of course talks about my finances and roles that I “should” be fulfilling in society. I have fought for many years for them to “get” me, to make them understand that I might not fall in the normal boxes that society has laid out for us. I seriously think that my parents don’t know the “real” me and that they don’t want to, there always seems to be awkwardness and closure when I try to actually talk about the things that “matter”.  I feel that I am a disappointment to them to some degree, yes, I have a job and education (not what they probably wished it was) and am still an upstanding member of society, whatever that means. I don’t however live in the nice house in the suburbs with the pool and the 2.3 kids whom I drive around to soccer practice etc. I live my life in fear of being judged by them (and if I actually made them see everything that lives in my heart I would be rejected) and set up against an ideal which I will never be. I don’t care for these material needs and find that there is much more important work to be made out there, I want a life of service filled with compassionate action. One thing that my meditation practice has done is definitely wake me up and gave me the drive and passion to try to live everyday with the most compassion and kindness that I can, that is what I find should define my upstanding member of society status.

I truly feel that they don’t know me at all, and that saddens me, and what saddens me even more is when I have tried to open up to them I just get an awkward “huh huh” and the conversation being changed or ended. One good example that I can think of is what I have asked for christmas and my birthday for the past 5 years. I have asked them to make a charitable donation in my name, an altruistic act by most people’s standards, and to no avail have never gotten it. I feel alone and misunderstood during these moments, like they are not listening to me and not making an effort to understand what is important and has meaning to me.

This makes me think of something that Vinny said in the first episode of the MTV show, If You Really Knew Me, that all he wanted his whole life was to be heard. This gets me thinking, isn’t that what we all really want in life? I think of the inmates that I saw in the penitentiaries during my volunteering, I always thought that most of these people would probably not be where they are today if they had just been heard in the past. This is a basic and natural human craving, and one that, if fulfilled, can have such a positive impact in the life of anyone. I find that it is completely absurd that we live in such a “civilized” world and that we still are not able to sit down and listen to each other, to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and “drop the waterline” if you will.

Albert Camus spoke of alienation, his theory of the absurd was born from the unreasonable silence from the world. We are left alone in a world that is meaningless and silent, so how are we to live life that has no meaning. The absurd is a central idea that I have personally wrestled with, and Camus’ understanding of the absurd is what has made the most sense. For Camus, happiness is fleeting and that the human condition is one of mortality. This was not to be morbid, but to help us have a greater appreciation of life and happiness. In his text, The Myth of Sisyphus, this dualism becomes a paradox: We value our lives and existence so greatly, but at the same time we know we will eventually die, and ultimately our endeavours are meaningless. While we can live with a dualism (I can accept periods of unhappiness, because I know I will also experience happiness to come), we cannot live with the paradox (I think my life is of great importance, but I also think it is meaningless). Camus suggests that ‘creation of meaning’, would entail a logical leap or a kind of philosophical suicide in order to find psychological comfort. But Camus wants to know if he can live with what logic and lucidity has uncovered – if one can build a foundation on what one knows and nothing more. Creation of meaning is not a viable alternative but a logical leap and an evasion of the problem. He gives examples of how others would seem to make this kind of leap. The alternative option, namely suicide, would entail another kind of leap, where one attempts to kill absurdity by destroying one of its terms (the human being). Camus points out, however, that there is no more meaning in death than there is in life, and that it simply evades the problem yet again. Camus concludes, that we must instead ‘entertain’ both death and the absurd, while never agreeing to their terms.

Camus made a significant contribution to a viewpoint of the absurd, and always rejected nihilism as a valid response.

“If nothing had any meaning, you would be right. But there is something that still has a meaning.” Second Letter to a German Friend, December 1943.

Camus’ understanding of the Absurd promotes public debate; his various offerings entice us to think about the absurd and offer our own contribution. Concepts such as cooperation, joint effort and solidarity are of key importance to Camus, though they are most likely sources of ‘relative’ versus ‘absolute’ meaning. Something that I think we could bridge the Absurd with Buddhism and meditation practice is this notion of relative meaning, we all know that everything is impermanent and is always changing, thus absolute meaning is impossible in our daily lives. I know that some of the teachings of the Buddha are true, but our relationship and understanding of them changes with time as our practice progresses. I have bared witness to this already in my practice and know that it is just the beginning. I guess I could use Camus in what I am living right now, the absurd (and the absurdity of my relationship with my parents) is something that I must co-exist with it and necessarily agree to its terms. One day maybe, I will be able to have an honest conversation with them, and actually be heard.

 

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I started watching the MTV reality show called, If you really knew me…, about Challenge Day and the impact that they have in schools all around the US. If you are not familiar with the work that is done you should really take some time to check out Challenge Day, it is a great answer to helping solve what is happening in schools all over with bullying, racism, etc. During the day, students are put into small groups and they each take turns letting people know the real them, we hide so much of ourselves to others which in turns creates real separation between people. They say that we are like icebergs, we only show 10% of ourselves to the world, so the exercise is to drop the waterline (get out of that comfort zone) and expose 100% of ourselves and be “real”.  What happens is that once everyone has started sharing how they really feel and what they are going through, we realize that we all have our struggles and insecurities, and that all we want is to be accepted for who we are and free to show ourselves and not hide behind masks.

Buddhism does also talk about the other and how we relate to them, especially when discussing the Bodhisattva vow and its mission of releasing all beings of suffering before leaving this earth. Awakening compassion is something that I have struggles with, especially towards myself. I am sure that we all have struggled with the inner critic inside of us, distancing myself from emotional pain – my vulnerability, anger, jealousy, fear – by letting it be covered over with self-judgment. So by pushing away parts of myself, I was digging myself deeper into the trance of unworthiness. I was not able to accept my experience because my heart was hardened by fear and blame. As long as I can remember I have been relentlessly badgering myself, ignoring the hurt in my heart. I think that it had all started with my relationship with my parents that were always quick to judge and criticize me when I was dropping my waterline, I thus developed an incapacity to acknowledge the real suffering that I was living with these harsh words and instead judging myself for being so stupid to show my real self to the world. I would never be accepted and loved if I didn’t create an image of myself that had his shit together all the time, and maintained an image that was respectable with the others around me.

This all came back up when I was watching these kids pour their hearts out, I saw myself and I remembered how hard it was to hold myself with compassion the first time that this surfaced in my meditation practice. I remember doing the body scan to see where in my body I could feel these feelings of unworthiness and judgment, feeling in my chest like my heart was bound with tight chords, realizing how painful this pain really was even though I had become used to feeling it all the time. Realizing how sad I felt to have always been carrying this pain with me, and for so long, ever since I could remember in my childhood. I had read that I should put my hand on my heart, the area where I felt the pain, and to say to myself  “I care about this suffering”. For the first time I could remember I was acknowledging the pain that I felt and realizing that it was Ok for me to care and tend to it. With time and practice, I must admit that the pain slowly softened, it never went away, but I must admit that I have a much more compassionate response to it. This care that I had always offered to others was for the first time in my life being directed towards myself, I could comfort myself with words of kindness and understanding. So now when I start feeling judgments about myself and the physical pain that comes with it, I am able to put my hand on my chest and offer words of kindness by saying that I care about my suffering and the pain and anger subsides and it is replaced by a warm feeling spreading throughout my whole body. My edge has softened with time and I am much less angry than I was.

May this suffering awaken compassion, these are the words of the Bodhisattva, a beautiful promise that is given by people who will dedicate their lives to awaken the compassion of all beings so they may be free of suffering. Challenge Day and its amazing staff are doing the work of the Bodhisattvas, they are showing that we are all suffering and we all want to be heard, loved, and accepted. We all live the same fears, insecurities, and we all have the same desires of being free from suffering. I find that they are showing that we are all in this together, so why do we judge and bring more suffering to people? We should be accepting and loving towards all people, no matter if they are different, because in the end we are all the same. I find that we get so caught up in our own stories sometimes that we forget and make the other to simply be an enemy or an object and forget the humanity that lives inside them. All beings experience love, fear, suffering and we should welcome them with love and openess in our lives. I find that the other is an illusion that we create to help justify our selfishness and to validate our suffering, that it is something that is out of our control. But if we take the time to open to our experiences and meeting them with kindness we can see ourselves in all beings. It reminds me of a story that I read once:

An aged spiritual master calls his two most devoted disciples to the garden in front of his hut. Gravely, he gives each one a chicken and instructs them, “Go to where no one can see, and kill the chicken.” One of the men immediately goes behind his shed, picks up an ax and chops off his chicken’s head. The other wanders around for hours, and finally returns to his master, the chicken still alive and in hand. “Well, what happened?” the teacher asks. The disciple responds, “I can’t find a place to kill the chicken where no one can see me. Everywhere I go, the chicken sees.”

Bring this wisdom into your life and I can assure that you will live a much kinder and compassionate life. I try to bring this attention and compassion to everything that I do, and I find that a Challenge day also lets a school see that we are not alone in our suffering and we should be helping each other out instead of creating boundaries and fear. So tomorrow when you are at school or work, say hello to someone that you normally would not talk to and let them know that you are there and you are listening!

 

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Sorry to have been absent as of late, I have taken a break from writing to help me examine my relationship to the internet and all the attachments. During this break, I have also decided to leave the popular social networking sites (Facebook, twitter, etc.) to help me reconnect with people in more traditional settings. I had found that these distractions had started taking up a big part of my time, I felt stressed to ensure that everything was updated regularly, my head was filled with possible postings and status updates. I was a victim of this socially accepted voyeurism, I know that social networking sites have their advantages and that they can bring a lot of good (promoting social causes, staying connected with people abroad, etc.), but for me it had become more of a hindrance than anything else. I felt more and more disconnected from people who I knew (even though I was able to “creep” on their walls to see what they had been up to that weekend etc.) and that I had not had a real conversation with some of these people. Since my cutting point I have had actual e-mail exchanges with these people and feel that I am connecting with them in a more “real” way. I am free from this artificial social world that is engulfing most people. I don’t want to shit all over these sites and the people who use them, but it has been one of the best things that I have done in a long time.

I feel that seeing as how I try to live a life of mindfulness and searching for the truth that is all around me, I should be out in the real world and living in it. I had to get off this chair in front of the computer and taking some time to see people face to face and taking a walk or reading a book, some things that had become more difficult to do seeing as I was always 18 inches away from my reality. I felt sad and somewhat ashamed to know what was happening in people’s lives without having talked to them personally in the last couple of years, this all came about when I attended a wedding in my hometown and reconnected with these people with full knowledge of their day-to-day without having actually spoken to them. This scared me and made me realize that something had to be done, so here I am. I think that if we are to use these ways of staying connected, we must at least be mindful of our usage and our relationship to it.

We can all agree that most of us spend too much time on the internet and our computers, so how are we to find a balance with our actual lives and our cyber lives? There are little actions that can help us stay connected and free to have time to ourselves in nature or that coffee shop that we love so much. Take a moment to get centered before turning on your computer, use a timer and set an intention before using social media, don’t forget that social media can be addictive (I am certainly proof of this, I have been a victim of the warm soft glow of Facebook and its counterparts, be careful and aware of the time that is being spent), you could even place a post-it on your computer asking yourself what social media is doing to you emotionally. We also have to be careful because of social media envy, it has made it increasingly easy to share our creations and build our organizations. Witnessing their evolution can inspire you or if we put our comparison glasses on, we can easily be bitten by the envy bug. If we notice this trend in ourselves we can respond with a simple exercise entitled the Jealous Map exercise created by Julia Cameron:

  1. Ask yourself, “Why am I envious of this person?” (e.g. their blog is soooo beautiful).
  2. Take an action that incorporates what you envy into your own life (e.g. spruce up your own blog’s design, use more photos in your posts).

Questioning our relationships to social media can be a very fruitful exercise, it can help us see if we should be spending less time or none at all, something that will help us feel better in the long run. I know that it can be scary in certain ways to tell people who you are not connected to these sites out of fear of judgment (what is wrong with him if he is on Facebook? What is his deal?).

There are so many ways that we can use social media unmindfully, so here is a short checklist (thanks reformed buddhist) that you can use if you are to use these sites and want to avoid conflict and drama as much as possible.

  1. Know your intentions (Am I looking to be seen or validated? Is there something more constructive I could do to meet that need?).
  2. Be your authentic self (Personal branding can hurt and is absolutely not important, why create a personae when you have wonderful you?).
  3. If you propose to tweet, ask yourself: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?
  4. Offer random tweets of kindness.
  5. Experience now, share later (try to avoid the obsession of having to post immediately photos of what is happening on Facebook, or checking-in to assure that everyone knows where you are.)
  6. Be active, not reactive (uninstall that update application on your smart phone, assure that it is you that decides to join the conversation and not being dragged in repeatedly).
  7. Respond with your full attention (so many people post links without reading them, remember that what you share represents you, including the fact that you didn’t read an article that doesn’t represent the comment you posted over it).
  8. Use mobile social media sparingly (there is nothing more insulting than being out with someone when they check their Facebook while you are talking to them, I am sure that you feel the same when the tables are turned).
  9. Practice letting go (you don’t need to respond to everyone’s status updates or tweets, seriously, you need down time sometimes).
  10. Enjoy social media (if it starts feeling like a chore remind yourself, is this why I decided to join this site?).

So here are some good ideas for using social media with mindfulness and making sure that we allow ourselves to have some time to simply enjoy life outside the office or without our phones. Maybe we don’t all have to unplug, but it might be a good idea to give ourselves days where for 24 hours we don’t use our computers or phones and remember what it is like to be without all these different attachments and applications. I mean, I remember a time where I did not have the internet or the phone when I left the house, and I did just fine!

 

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Hello everyone, it has been a while since I have written, I must say that I have not been going super well. As always, I have also stopped having a dedicated daily practice and now feel that I have dove deeply into suffering on a daily basis. The five hindrances have taken over and now I feel like it is hard to escape them! This feeling of sinking is something that I know all too well these days, and then comes my old friend doubt which makes me question everything. I was driving home this week from a Chuck Ragan show in Ottawa back to Montreal and had a close call with a moose on the highway, it is moments like this that sometimes wake you up! This moment, which lasted just a few seconds, made me realize that it is time for me to take back my practice and my life in many ways. I realized that this practice is most important when things aren’t going well, no matter how hard or unpleasant it may be. It is when the work pays off and we are able to truly see the benefits of meditation practice. I mean, my life is not that bad; I have a job surrounded by good people, I am in a healthy relationship, I have a roof over my head with a fridge full of food, so why am I suffering so much? I know that it comes down to my usual issues: I have a hard time seeing the goodness inside of me, accepting that my projects may seem like they are so far away from being fulfilled, and that I must stay true to myself.

My practice suffered when things seemed to feel like they were all falling apart: I was no longer able to volunteer in the penitentiary that I was going to for the last three years (cut-backs, etc.), I was not able to participate in further training with my teacher due to financial obligations, my meditation group going on hiatus due to lack of participation, and the list goes on. This filled me with feelings of hopelessness and despair. All that I seemed to have been working towards all see to fall apart in about the same timeline, which made me seriously question my role in the dharma and if this was actually the path for me. Of course, this made it that I stopped practicing on a daily basis and I started indulging in less healthy habits on the side. Seeing as things weren’t going well inside I tried to change things around me to try to give myself pleasure from external sources. Of course, this never helps and I know this to be true, but it is such an easy thing to indulge in our cravings and try to numb our pain. I am also an expert at that! It is so much easier to tell ourselves that we will be happy if we get the new record by such and such an artist, that going out drinking with help numb the pain that we feel inside (except that we wake up with even more suffering).  I realized after the moose that my life had been completely taken over by the five hindrances and it is time for me to shape up and face my demons, no matter how ugly they may be!

The five hindrances are important in meditation practice, and discovering their antidotes even more:

1- Lust: Sense desire is a great distraction from serenity and mindfulness, craving is such an ingrained habit in all of us and we live in a society that feeds off it! This hindrance is not only in the sexual way, even though a lot of people do suffer with pornography instead of intimate relationships, but it can also be something as simple as consuming a lot of different albums or books like me. Concentration is the anitdote for this hindrance. When the mind is strong enough to (seemingly) effortlessly stay on a single object, there is no danger of falling into the trap of discomfiting lust, greed, and yearning. By practicing mindfulness we are able to avoid the trapping of consumption or craving, it helps us to realize that we will not be happy if we get that new gadget etc.

2- Anger: This is an emotion that I know all too well, ill-will is a miserable tendency that destroys calm, cool, collected states of mind in a blinding instant — like an explosive hot flash reducing everything to cinders. Most people would agree that anger is not a pleasant experience, I am sure that if we take a second to think about it, the physical experience of anger usually comes as a tightening of the chest or something similar. Most people do not realize how much annoyance, irritation, and ill directed resentment they’re carrying around — that is, until they try to sit peacefully and silently for a few minutes. The antidote is cultivating kindness (also known as Metta), compassionate recognition (karuna), and joy-in-others-happiness (mudita). These give rise to a sublime state of looking on (upekkha) with acceptance and understanding. One becomes unflappable but perfectly able to respond. “Warm detachment” — not to be confused with cold indifference.

3- Restlessness: Worry, or being scattered, results from inattention to the object and too much effort. More effort makes one more awkward, inartful, and inarticulate. The more one wants something, the LESS one is able to get it. When we are less concerned with the outcome, the more confident we will be, and paradoxically, the MORE success we will have. And with more success, more confidence. We have to couple the concentrated mind with a pacified heart, we must learn to balance both, because too much thinking will be a hindrance to our practice. Too much effort quickly leads to dissatisfaction and prematurely giving up.

4- Drowsiness: Also, known as sloth or torpor, is one I am sure that we have all experienced on the cushion. It has happened more than once that we will doze off during our sits, this can be caused by legitimate tiredness, but the other is a habit of delusion (moha) or foolishness (bala): If in the past (as now) one was not keen to hear the Truth, not interested in things as they are, but negligent, heedless, inattentive, then mindfulness, diligence, and one-pointedness leading to insight will take more time. Rest well before sitting, and persevere. Persistence and regularity are antidotes to pernicious drowsiness.

5- Doubt: This has definitely been my biggest struggle on the cushion, in my life even, and is one that I know I will always have to wrestle. I find that this hinderance can sometimes be overwhelming, it makes one completely question everything. How can we avoid being totally over taken by doubt? There are a couple of ways, one is to simply put it aside for later, or get up and work at getting your question answered (there are always teachers or at least books lying around that can help you). If we get lost in a different views when we are trying to figure stuff out, we can very easily just get confused and sink even more, it can become a crutch. Suspend disbelief, lay down the doubting mind, abandon reasoning from a position of faulty assumptions. The Truth is true; your thinking won’t make it otherwise. The Truth is here to see and inviting. There’s a time to argue, a time to study, a time to investigate and question. That time is certainly not when you sit on a mat and cushion.

So that is exactly what I am going to do, I am going to allow a time and a place for all things in my life. I have to be kind towards myself and develop a strong practice again if I want to free myself from the suffering that I am experiencing these days… These are the times when meditating is the hardest, but also the most important! I hope that this will help me dive back into the dharma and assure that I do not stray too much from this path again… I also have to remind myself to not be too hard on myself and think of this as one of many bumps in the road ahead! I know that a dedicated meditation practice may not eliminate my demons completely, but it will help me live with them. It is what it is folks!

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