Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Buddhist Recipe for Optimism

How can one be optimistic in the time we live in? It's not as difficult as you think. It takes having a prospective and understanding the nature of the mind. Here are some tips from and incurable Buddhist Optimist.

I have noticed that pessimism is always so much more popular then optimism. As an incurable optimist I have mostly avoided this pitfall, but there are practical precautions that can really help. Here are some of my best ones:

1) Meditation: I sit silently for about an hour a day and try to do longer retreats every year for a little quiet time. Basically, the modern world doesn’t appreciate the joy of silence. It has been quoted by Meher Baba (Avatar, Mystic, Prophet} and also in the Vedas (Ancient Indian Scriptures) that this is the age of noise, vice and ignorance of our own true nature (Kali Yuga). Well, Daaa. It’s pretty freakin’ noisy & ignorant in the world, but that’s why sitting silently and opening to inner wisdom is so beautiful.

It’s always hard to start for me to start my meditation (in the age of noise of course). I have two secrets. One is I remember a quote from a Buddhist Monk when he was sitting to meditate,...” the joy of sitting”. It’s a simple expression, but it works! I take a moment to remember that sitting silently is a joy!

The other thing I have noticed is that after the first five minutes the ego gives up it’s power over the mind. Yeah that right, the ego gives up and lets you sink deeper and deeper in to silence. The ego is so much in control of the mind. It’s grip is like a vice. You just can’t let go. There are too many important decisions. The intellect is always sorting and categorizing things to do, things to not do, etc. So, I have discovered if I can just sit for five minutes, then I can sit in meditation as long as I want after.

With Meditation I gain a clear prospective. As the Zen saying goes: “It looks real, but it is not real.” During meditation the outer reality becomes fuzzy and the inner reality become more tangible. That inner realm is so much more connected with truth then the outer. With that prospective the rest of the day is perceived from a silent center and not on the surface. I am the ocean, not the waves.

2) No News is good news. I know you want to know what’s going on with the elections and who blew up in Iran today, but really,..... do these things have anything to do with your life? Someone somewhere is always doing something crazy, but that Karma is very far removed from your Dharma (life purpose).

Another thing you have to consider is where that news is coming from. Last I heard, there are about four mega-corporation that own all the media or most of it. And what do you think there going to report? They’ll report whatever suits them and support there agenda. I call it honesty challenged news.

News is also sensationalized to give it some kick with a bias toward drama. Don’t you have enough drama already? Do you really need somebody else to tell you their drama? I know it’s entertaining, but it’s not the best choice for entertainment. Open your eyes and look around. There is so much beauty to be seen.

News, just don’t do it! No TV news, no radio news, no internet news, and no newspaper. Sound insane? Well let me tell you a story: I quit all TV & news for about 10 years while living in a Meditation center. A decade later, when I finally took a peak at current events the only regret I had was missing the great days of Saturday Night Live. That was it. Everything else was unimportant in retrospect.

A lot of people don’t realize how the mind works. You can put stuff in, but you can’t take it out. What you can do is choose wisely what goes in, because once it’s in there, it is part of the mix that you have to live with for the rest of your life. In sanskrit, it is called the “Chit” or storehouse of memories. We only want good chit (pun intended). We want Sat Chit Ananda translated as BEing, Mind, Bliss!

3) Physical Well-Being. Now this is a big subject, so can just summarize here. Buddhism puts it this way: Eat well and don’t take poison (ie alcohol, tobacco, & drugs). I’m not say that you can’t party occasionally. After all you’re and evolving soul in need of all life’s experiences. It’s just as it says above the temple of the Oracle of Delphi: “Nothing in Excess”. It’s no fun anyway when you over do it.

Often negativity is a physiological response to not feeling good in the body. Simple enough. The mind and body are intimately related. Do the best you can with that physical Temple. You only have it for a little while. Keep it tuned up.

4)Emotional Well-Being. Once again there is an opportunity here to choose wisely. We’ve all had toxic relationships. A little self inquiry can identify who brings you down and who makes you feel good. One idea is to separate the givers from the takers. It’s not an even split. People are not half an half. There are a lot of great people out there giving and supporting you. Lose the takers from your life. Let the vampires suck somebody else’s life force. You have your own dance to do and Dharma to unfold.

5)Existence is Cyclical. Yes, it is a infinite dance of checks and balances. The pendulum swing both ways. I laugh when I hear stock went down because the Federal Reserve Chairman sneezed and then back up again because someone threw him as surprise birthday party. They always go up and down as does everything else. It’s called as cycle. Don’t sweat it. Take a broad prospective.

The Taoist call this a ‘lesson world’ When Buddha say in the first Noble Truth that “life is suffering” it is not to make you feel bad. It’s the beginning and at the other side there is freedom from suffering.

6) Relativity of history. I’m a big student of history. I know this sound boring, but I have a passion to know why the human race is so silly and I wonder how crazy our ancestors must have been. It gives a great prospective. As far as I have read, we live in a golden era. You think war & corruption is a new thing. Let me tell you. Now your bummed it your run out of coffee or your team losses the big game. In Roman times (which did last 900 year by the way) a bad day was when the Roman legions marched in your town to demonstrate ‘Pax Romana’ (Roman Peace). It would start with killing all the men and enslaving all of the women & children. Then they would burn and level the entire town with the finishing touch of salting the earth so nothing could ever grow there again. The place was called Carthage. That was in 146 BC, but hey it has happened again and again. Any cursory review of history makes today’s events menial and life absolutely wonderful.

Optimism is not so hard. All of existence has been designed to help you evolved. All the sages, saints, and prophets have left wisdom traditions to give you a direction. Your habits of the past (Samsara) can be changed if you want to be happy. Nature itself is singing a song of joy right now. Just listen.


Sean Reeves said...

Came across your blog because I've set up a Google Alert for the phrase "Meher Baba". I enjoyed reading your post and pretty much agree with all you wrote. Instead of "honesty challenged news", I use the phrase "bogus news", originally coined by the spiritual teacher Barry Long. So-called news is not news at all really, just variations on tired themes like murder, political intrigue, scandals etc. Allow me one small criticism (I'm older than you). You repeatedly use the word "prospective" when you mean (I think) "perspective". Peace be with you.

Joe Smoe said...

Thanks for your tip on spelling. I've alway been a poor speller. Now I use spell check more often. I went to see Barry Long once in Australia. He is a very powerful teacher. All the best, QW