A year – astronomically – is a spin of a celestial object around a center of gravity. In our – Earthly – case, a year is, of course, a spin around the Sun.
As we yearn for stability and balance in our lives, we are zipping around the Sun at an orbital speed of 30 kilometers per second (that’s 108,000 kilometers per hour) – and not down some well-paved straight line, but on a perpetual curve, without any chance of ever getting off this mind-boggling ride!
Ponder this as well: a straight line is but a geometrical abstraction. We live in the world of tremendous centripetal/ego-centric forces and inevitable curvatures.
Not every year can be necessarily a happy one, but even an unhappy year can be a mindful one. So, instead of wishing you a happy new year, I’d like to wish you a mindful one; not a year of presents but a year of presence!
In reviewing my 2010 posts, I’d like to replay this one theme, that of redefining perfection and of noticing the ordinary perfection all around us.
The ideas behind this theme represent my most treasured thoughts, the thoughts that have allowed me personally and professionally to leverage most wellbeing out of this one and only reality that we have.
It’s almost that time of the year: the season of resolutions. New Year, new beginning, a slimmer and healthier new you Undoubtedly, many of us will, on impulse, make unrealistic weight and fitness goals that will be abandoned guiltily just a few weeks later.
As we once again turn over a new leaf in this seasonal book of self-change, we sooner or later come to realize that this story of resolve and willpower has no happy ending.
In pondering this circular narrative of our lives, it appears that we’ve embraced the wrong meaning of the right word. Let me explain.
Suzuki reports the following curious exchange between Yun-men (a Zen master) and a fellow monk. When asked “Who is Buddha?” Yun-men said: “The dried-up dirt cleaner.”
To my analysis, this is a rather profound response, although it doesn’t seem so at first. After all, Buddha as a dirt cleaner? What does that mean?
Let’s take a look. But first, a word about the meaning of “buddha.” There’s nothing religious about this word—it simply means “awakened, aware” and originates from the Pali verb budh, meaning “to awaken.” Thus, the term “buddha nature” can be taken to mean animated nature, nature that is aware.
Buddha nature is consciousness. Here’s the Dalai Lama equating buddha nature with consciousness: “This consciousness is the innermost subtle mind. We call it Buddha nature, the real source of all consciousness” (1988, 45). Indeed, consciousness, since it exists, is part of nature and its defining characteristic is that it is aware. In fact, the two words “consciousness” and “awareness” are functionally interchangeable.
So, what did Yun-men mean when he described Buddha as a dirt cleaner? Perhaps that buddha nature (consciousness) is self-cleaning.
Worry is science fiction. Worry is [threatening] thoughts about [what might happen in the] future. Worry is scientific in its initial attempt at logic: worry starts with facts and then escalates them into fiction.
Face it: The future doesn’t yet exist. It hasn’t happened yet. Nowhere in this universe does the future exist. Everyone and everything is right now, only now, ever now, never not now. Recognize that no matter how much you worry about the future, you will never experience it. Future doesn’t exist: what exists is your thoughts about what doesn’t exist. All you’ve ever experienced and will ever experience is a particular “now” that you’re in. Time [is just language that] makes us tense.
“Modernity dethrones humankind. It reduces all our thoughts, purposes, and hopes to the object of scientific inquiry. It makes laboratory rats of us all. Spinoza actively embraces this collapse of the human into mere nature. Leibniz abhors it.
[...] Leibniz intends to demonstrate that we are the most special of all beings in nature. In the entire universe, [Leibniz] says, there is nothing more real or more permanent or more worthy of love than the individual human soul. We belong to the innermost reality of things. The human being is the new God, he announces: Each of us is “a small divinity and eminently a universe.” (1)
Lean into the sky with your stare.
See all of its black infinity behind the azure blue of the familiar.
Realize that all, all, all of that is you!
I know, I know
You thought it was just you.
I know you thought it was all quite simple:
That there was you and not-you,
That there was this you here and all that not-you there.
All of it is you.
Smoking is pyrotechnics: cigarette is a fuse, your lungs – a bomb of pleasure and worry. This week’s objective is to change how you set yourself on fire.
Get a new lighter, a lighter you wouldn’t intuitively use. For example, if you are into classy metal lighters, get a BIC with a NASCAR theme. If you like a minimalist, slick, urban look, get something really colorful or camouflaged. Show some behavioral plasticity, pick the wrong color of plastic – if you don’t like yellow, get yellow; if you like white, get black.
There are days when
I am completely in my mind.
Those days are many.
And then there days when I am totally outdoors, totally out of my mind*
*Mindfulness doesn’t mean more mind, it means less mind, more body. There is this here-and-now smell, this present-moment touch, this dynamic of the moment, i.e. this life as it is unfolding in this moment, and then mind cuts in, with its distracting interpretation, with its intellectualizing narrative. Never mind your mind – and unite your states of body.
There is a story in Zhuangzi (a Taoist book named after Zhuangzi, a 4th century BCE Chinese philosopher) that goes something like this…
A master carpenter Shi and his apprentice are walking through the woods in search of a good tree. The apprentice sees a great big old oak tree and asks his master why he walked past it paying it no attention. “Oh, enough with that,” the Master exclaims, “don’t even talk about this one!” The Master Carpenter then explains: “This tree… it’s so bad that if you made a boat, it’d sink; and if you made a coffin, it’d rot; and if you made a roof, it’d leak… This tree is good for nothing and it’s exactly because it’s so useless and worthless that it’s been standing here so long…”
Are the Master and the Apprentice looking at the same tree? Not likely.