Archive for the ‘Ramblings’ Category

yellowREDI like traveling. I don’t mean, “I like getting to a destination and having a vacation”, I mean, “I like the act of being in transition from point a to point b.” I particularly like airports. I like walking around very slowly and smiling at people as the rest of the airport seethes. I have some tips for how to enjoy airplane travel.

1. When possible try to book flights that get you in long before you need to be. In the last decade an average of 25% of flights are delayed and roughly 3% are canceled. Chances are pretty good you are going to be delayed. http://www.transtats.bts.gov/homedrillchart.asp

2. Leave for the airport early. Real early. 7:30am flight from a busy airport? Arrive 75 minutes before boarding. This removes any anxiety that might be caused by long lines at security.

3. Check your bag. Yup, its usually $25, but you can walk around the airport encumbered, move through security more smoothly and settle into your seat with less stress of figuring out where your bag will go. Baggage rarely gets lost anymore and its amazing how quickly it gets to the bagage claim on arrival.

4. Board last. You don’t have any extra baggage and your seat is reserved. What’s the rush to get to your seat? While others uncomfortably jokey to be ahead of one more person as zones are being called, you can enjoy a few more minutes of your book.

5. Smile at people, particularly the people who work at the airport. I’m uncomfortable with how dehumanizing most of our interactions are with other human beings who work retail and service jobs and its really bad in airports. It’s very satisfying to see how happy an airport attendant can be just from chatting briefly with a polite customer.

6. Headphones are a must. I’m not normally a fan of blocking out the world, but the inside of an airplane is loud. (70+ dB) Sustained for a long time that can cause headaches and tension. http://www.atlasaviation.com/medical/hearing_and_noise_in_aviation.htm

7. Breathe. If you have a regular sitting practice this is a great time to bring it into the real world. Because you have simplified your travel by giving yourself plenty of time and by traveling lightly, you have no reason to be stressed. You can move slowly, bring your awareness to your breath and treat your day as an extended mindfulness practice.

I love traveling. I enjoy being at point a, point b and all the infinite points in between.


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pink sunset This is an excerpt from the classic “What the Buddha Taught” by Walpola Rahula.

However you put it, faith or belief as understood by most religions has little to do with Buddhism.

The question of belief arises when there is no seeing – seeing in every sense of the word. The moment you see, the question of belief disappears. If I tell you that I have a gem hidden in the folded palm of my hand, the qustion of belief rises because you do not see it yourself. But if I unclench my fist and show you the gem, then you see it for yourself, and the question of belief does not arise. So the phrase in ancient Buddhist texts reads: “Realizing, as one sees a gem in the palm.”

A disciple of the Buddha named Musila tells another monk: “Friend Savittha, without devotion, faith or belief, without liking of inclination, without hearsay or tradition, without consideration apparent reasons, without delight in the speculations of opinions, I know and see that the cessation of becoming is Nirvana.

And the Buddha says: “O Bhikkus, I say that the destruction of defilement and impurities is meant for a person who knows and who sees, and not for a person who does not know and does not see.”

It is always a question of knowing and seeing, and not that of believing. The teaching of the Buddha is qualified as ehi-passika, inviting you to ‘come and see’, but not to come and believe.

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don't just do something, sit there!One of the truly awesome, and at times challenging, things about meditation is there really is no instruction other than beginner’s instruction. If you are new to meditation, try to and enjoy your practice without seeking expert status – this is it!

Today’s tips are about getting to the cushion. Often we are exposed to meditation and we bring great enthusiasm to making this practice a part of our lives. However, we quickly find ourselves putting off sitting in favor of watching a little more TV or sleeping in a few minutes longer. The greatest benefits of meditation come not from a single session but rather from sitting every day.

  1. Set a reasonable length of time: Consider starting with 5 minutes. Remember our goal is to sit every day, not to be rocketed into enlightenment with that one perfect session. The first few months provide more of a challenge building a new habit than anything else. Make you ability to succeed sustainable. What length of time would it be impossible to say no to? What length of time doesn’t intimidate you at all?
  2. Link your meditation to something you do everyday. I have a friend who meditates in between showering and shaving. Another friend pulls into the parking lot at work in the morning and sits in her car. I know a guy whose life has been radically changed by meditating on the train ride into the city. Yet another friend links her meditation to waiting for her coffee to brew. The couple who started the Tuesday night meditation group I cherish, sit every evening after dinner together. I have a routine of washing the dishes and then sitting. Examine your life. Where do you see an opportunity to add some quiet time? 
  3. Make a checklist. When I challenge myself to make a new habit or to do something like my daily gratitude list, I put a checklist in a visible place. Hard to ignore a box next to a date that is waiting to be clicked off. I like to use the space next to my phone at work on a little posted note. Inconspicuous but impossible for me to miss.
  4. Ask yourself why you meditate. A powerful and motivating force for creating this new daily discipline lies in our most intimate motivations. We are attracted to meditation for different reasons; spiritual inquiry, a desire to quiet the mind, a quest for serenity, managing anger or anxiety, or coping with the loss of a loved one. These and other starting points provide for important reminders. Hard to justify watching another episode of Real Housewives when the alternative is working on an important struggle in your life. Why do you meditate? 
  5. Join a group. When I first started meditating I was lucky enough to have the support of a weekly group. This guaranteed I had at least one day a week of meditation. Even better, the support of others and the shared experience was a powerful motivator for my own daily sitting.
  6. Learn from the resistance to practice. We examine our minds when we do zazen but the opportunity to see our mind at work is available to us at all times. We can learn a lot from honestly inquiring within ourselves what these resistance points are.
  7. Just do it. Sometimes it is easier to simply let go of the struggle and just get on the cushion. Meditation is no place for debate. If we have good reasons to practice and a reasonable goal in mind, just sit there!

Good luck! May your practice and your life go well.

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war horse spiritMy friend Clarence died last week after a year of his wife very tenderly taking care of him. Clarence was happy with his life, had his affairs in order and shared that he wasn’t afraid to die. His cousin and six siblings passed before him and he was deeply appreciative of his wife and daughter who looked after him.

Clarence lived in the house his grandfather built over a hundred years ago, had four children and drove trucks for his entire career. He has been to every state in the Union except for Hawaii. Once, he drove a truck all the way home from Chicago after the clutch blew. His favorite part of the job was teaching new truckers how to drive and helping them pass the licensing test. I believe he must have been a kind teacher.

Clarence was very concerned that I really learned something that couldn’t be learned enough. We’re lucky to have people in our lives to love, but it isn’t enough just to love them; you have to show them.

Shortly after his death I spoke with Mary, his wife, and shared how often he expressed his appreciation of her patience through his illness, of how many times he told me the story of their courtship 51 years ago and how much he loved her.  She already knew…


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RippleGUEST POST: My friend Vin was kind enough to write a post in response to this.

A mutual friend had pointed to your blog today, noting in particular your “Done with Ugly Words” post. While a good post overall, one point in particular resonated with me: “Like the emphasis I try to bring to say positive things instead of negative whenever possible, I’m going to equally work on the quality of those words.” All I wanted to say was that I, while spending countless hours trapped in my car/ daily commute, have spent too much time thinking. While the subject varies from place to place it’s often punctuated by vulgarities thrown at the nearest driver from behind the relative safety of my windows, usually followed by a sense of “Justice has been served.“…and then followed by contemplation (I am trapped in the car).

In my countless (boring) hours of thought, I’ve recalled my old argument justifying removing the horn out of my previous car: “All the horn is used for is to convey ‘F**K YOU!’ and/or impatience to other drivers. I don’t need that.” Why I mention this is that I haven’t thought about it in a while, but you reminded me of a theory I had a while back (tied to the horn thing): if all the horn is doing is allowing me to give into my road rage/frustration, it’s not really letting me get past being upset either. More importantly, it’s making me be a negative influence to everyone around me.

At the risk of being flowery, I’ve viewed it as dropping a rock in water – the ripples go out in waves. Watch someone (or yourself) really slam their horn – watch the reactions of people around you – it’s never positive, and often it incites yet more road rage – and I can’t tell you the sheer number of times I’ve walked into the office seething with anger because someone decided they were going to yell at ME (via their horn). It’s just too much negativity. When I took out the horn on my old car, my driving experience radically changed: I was forced to be more patient, start thinking of what others are thinking/feeling on the road, etc. Certainly people are insensitive, jerkish, thoughtless people on the highway, and often act in a dangerous manner – but if you remove your ability to “yell” at them, it’s amazing how your perspective can change – as well as how I realized how I was affecting others.

You once asked me about my plethora of speeding tickets, and how I was starting to avoid them (Still haven’t had one in years 🙂 and I told you oh, sure I’ve gotten smarter about my driving.

No I haven’t. I’m no smarter now than I was years ago (arguably, less – damnable alcohol).

What I’ve done is made myself aware of my influence on others on the road – I don’t cut people off, weave in and out (emergencies aside) narrowly missing bumpers, etc. Not because I don’t have the skill to do so (I still believe I do) but because it scares people, startling and pissing them off – and who deserves that on their way to work? We’re all tired, overworked & underpaid, and emotionally exhausted. The last thing people need is someone like me whipping around them to gain – what, 10 seconds of additional time at my desk?

I’ve had people (bosses, usually, but coworkers too) be in god awful moods, understandably, because they almost died (their view) on the way to work. And that awful mood ended up causing arguments with me, coming out at me, changing the way they handle their already-stressful situations each day. And I don’t even know the person that caused this on the road / in the supermarket / at the DMV – nor was I there – yet now I’m dealing with it.

Hrm…I’m rambling again. My point is this: inside the car, outside the car (with swearing, yelling, etc.) we’re all causing ripples in the water. And we don’t know how far out those ripples go.

Good luck with your anti-swearing effort (I was raised believing that if I swore a lot, it was a sign I had poor vocabulary. Thanks Dad.) I think we need more people like you out there.

(I still drive like an asshole.)

Guest Post by: Vin H.

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My friend Celia and I embarked on a 4 week, daily gratitude practice together and concluded tonight with a long talk on what we learned along the way. Celia is a meditating friend of mine from my hometown and is one of the four of us who had formed our “mini-sangha” sitting group on Sunday nights that evolved into regular half day retreats.

In detail, we promised to list every night 5 things we were grateful for from the day with a promise that we would talk about our progress at least once a week. I got so much out of this practice. Below are a few unsorted reactions.

1. I was feeling down because January and February I always get a little depressed and worse, its a bit lonely here in Scranton. I was feeling sorry for myself and deciding to do this was a good sign to me that I have learned that I have enormous freedom from my emotions and can choose to disengage from negative and move towards positive ones.

2. I’m not as eternally optimistic and grateful as I like to imagine I am. I would say 1/3rd of the days were straight up hard to be positive, 1/3rd just neutral, and a 1/3rd I was brimming with joy I couldn’t way to share. Celia called this a mindfulness practice, saying it forced her to look at where she was right now, every night. I think that nailed it the head. Where am I right now? What choice do I have to make that better? Look at all this good around me!

3. I loved getting to know Celia a little better. I liked sharing with someone a little peak into my world too. It is great to have friends who are mutually interested in personal and spiritual growth.

4. I have a TON to be grateful for. Even on the crummy days.

5. A lot of the times the things I’m stressed or negative about are the best places to find a lot of things to be grateful about. Hate the mess in the house? Wow, I have a house. Stressed at work? I have a job, better a career!

6. I’d like to do this again with a new friend. I’m going to solicit volunteers instead of approaching someone. I’d like to see if someone surprises me and wants to do this. The pairing was a must. I think I would have gotten through 5 days if it wasn’t for Celia’s help.

7. I guess this isn’t a surprise but the things I’m most grateful for are the people. I have so many people I love immensely and it was nice to be able to remember and celebrate that.

This was an awesome month. I’m hoping my friend Celia will right a response to this to share her thoughts. Thank you for everything Celia.


How to do a 28 Day Gratitude Project

1. Pick a friend and discuss how you’ll move forward, what your intentions are and why you want to do this.

2. We decided to share 5 things every night by email and committed to once a week talking on the phone. We ended up doing more of the weekly summaries by email, but we concluded with a nice chat.

3. Change it. Do it again.


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censoredThis year I have been working on not saying anything about someone that I wouldn’t say if they were in the room. This was a litmus test I could run in my head before engaging in gossip.

The experiment has grown. Like my awareness of what I was eating grew into an appreciation for the cost to the enviroment and the animals I no longer choose to eat, this awareness of negative speech has carried past gossip.

On a recent trip my wife and I stood in line with three mid-twenty young men. One was carrying on, rather insightfully, about how to take ownership for a mistake at work. The problem was his language. He cursed just like I do. The F-word was used for emphasis, the S-word for anything negative in nature and the MFer for special exasperations. Aside from inappropriate (their were families in line) I was struck with just how ugly the words were.

Like many of the big changes I’ve made in my life over the last two years, it was clear in an instant what I needed to do. I turned to my wife. “I’m done swearing.”

I cursed three times yesterday and only once today. I know its not going to be easy. I’m given to foul language. But I’m going to try. Like the emphasis I try to bring to say positive things instead of negative whenever possible, I’m going to equally work on the quality of those words. We’ll see how it goes. Wish me luck. Tips are welcome 😉

“Remember, the universe is the echo of our actions and our thoughts.” Dalai Lama

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