Today I ran across two particularly interesting quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh that really resonated with me.
“People suffer because they are caught in their views. As soon as we release those views, we are free and we don’t suffer anymore.“
“Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature.”
These two quotes really resonated with me because the theme of how the internal path is reflected into the external world, and vice versa, has been a recurring theme for me this week.
First, leading up to, during, and after the North Carolina constitutional amendment this week that bans same-sex marriage, there was a huge amount of vitriol being spewed forth by conservative talking heads regarding the issue. Just watching the conservative political pundits and politicians speak about the amendment and issues facing the LGBT community, I was really struck by the amount of true hate that many of these people had. Even those that cloaked their opposition to LGBT rights in politically correct niceties such as “I’m not anti-gay, I’m pro traditional values”, seemed to harboring a great deal of resentment to a group of people that in no way poses any actual harm or threat to anyone. Period. Even though these people were clothing themselves in the cloak of righteousness, they were (and are) suffering because of the anger and ill-will that their views create internally and externally, whether or not they want to admit it, or even realize it. These people are not only experiencing internal conflict and turmoil, but externally they are influencing and/or governing over a society that is also full of conflict and turmoil. The vitriol is now ramping up even higher, because President Obama (thanks largely to Vice-President Biden’s horrid Washington D.C. sin of a truthful tongue slip), has finally came out in support of the right for same-sex couples to get married.
Now then, admittedly I generally fall into the libertarian portion of the scale when it comes to social issues, because I feel that as long as you aren’t hurting me, or anyone else, I don’t really have the right to force you to live your life a certain way, nor do I have the right to force my version of morality on you. However, no matter what end of the political spectrum you fall into, it shouldn’t be that great of a stretch to realize that every human being is a person that has the same rights and emotional needs as anyone else, and they are entitled to those rights and the fulfillment of those needs no matter their race or gender, or their sexual, religious, or political preferences.
“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” ~Aristotle
I originally wrote much of this in a reply to an earlier comment from Sharon, but after thinking about this some more, I thought that it would make a good post!
Everyone wants to be happy. Everyone wants to feel fulfilled, loved, and self confident. However, based on the large number of self-help books/ talk-shows, as well as escalating rates of depression and other mental ailments, people seem to be seeking happiness, but many aren’t finding it. This begs the question, is it possible to be truly happy? Is it possible to truly live a happy and fulfilled life?
I not only believe that it is possible to be truly happy, but I truly believe that our purpose in life is to be happy, and truly enjoy life; however, happiness takes work.
“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”- H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama
The other day I was flipping through the channels, and I came across some sort of special involving Oprah. It was an extremely interesting segment, where Oprah was really opening up regarding her background, her spiritual path, etc. One thing that really struck me was when she asked the interviewer (and the audience at large) a very simple, yet profound question, “What do you know for sure?”
This seemingly simple question really got me to think about my own life, background, and spiritual path. It also made me ask myself several questions. First, have I really progressed, even after many years of seeking and practice? Second, have I really come to any greater understanding of myself or the universe than I had a decade ago? Third, is there anything that I can definitively say for sure?
As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am in the process of editing a book that I have been working on since 2004, where I really explore the teachings of the eight major world religions, and discuss how I have used those teachings in my own path. The editing process has been extremely interesting, because I can literally see how my views and thoughts have changed, sometimes drastically, regarding God, the spiritual path, and even who I really am. There have been portions that even at eight years old still remain relevant and accurate to me, while there are sections that are less than a year old, that I have heavily revised and updated. Read more…
“We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness, which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we must come at last to regard the world.” – Marcel Proust
During this past weekend I had the supreme pleasure of enjoying a four day Scottish Rite Reunion in Guthrie, Oklahoma. For those that aren’t familiar with the Scottish Rite, it is a Masonic organization that confers the 4th through the 33rd degrees of the Masonic system. The degrees of the Scottish Rite basically provide a collegiate level course on comparative religion, philosophical and moral thought, ethics, and most importantly (for me at least) inner development.
I am supremely fortunate to be a member of the Guthrie Valley, which not only boasts one of the world’s most beautiful buildings (in my opinion, and in the opinion of many who have been fortunate to visit it), but it is composed of members who truly care about not only their own spiritual path, but facilitating the spiritual paths of others. During the Reunions there are group meditation and education courses, as well as ample opportunities to spend one-on-one time with individual seekers, teachers, and facilitators from almost every spiritual tradition ranging from mainstream Christianity, Gnostic Christianity, Buddhism, Islam-Sufism, Neo-Paganism, etc., so it is truly a spiritual melting pot that provides a smorgasbord for the spiritual seeker. It also provides people from all spiritual backgrounds, and levels of interest or development with a platform to advance and learn from one another, which unfortunately is a very rare opportunity.
The above quote by Marcel Proust has been stuck in my head for the last month or so, and during this last weekend it really hit home; because, one of the central teachings of the Rite is that its members should actively go out in the world and practice what they have learned in order to take up the struggle against tyranny, oppression, ignorance, and human suffering of all kinds.
Too often people are merely content with “receiving” wisdom, which is passive, and merely becomes an intellectual exercise, or people are constantly searching for just the right place of worship, teacher, or practice, so they easily fall into a rut, which prevents any real progress. While I firmly believe that every spiritual tradition provides the keys (knowledge) to living a happy and fulfilled life in this realm, and in the next, we must make an effort to discover true wisdom, which can only be had by journeying down the path towards it. The journey towards wisdom not only requires learning (knowledge), but it requires real effort, and actually putting your knowledge into practice. Read more…
April Rain Song:
Let the rain kiss you.
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.
Let the rain sing you a lullaby.
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk.
The rain makes running pools in the gutter.
The rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night -
And I love the rain.
- Langston Hughes (1902-1967).
I have always loved the sound of rain, which is probably why I love spring in Oklahoma, and wistfully wish that I lived someplace like Washington State, where it rains almost all year long. Unfortunately, those of us in Oklahoma have been suffering through the worst drought since the famous “Dust Bowl” period. Luckily, today we have been blessed by several hours of hard steady rain. The rain and occasional thunderclap have added a wonderful soundtrack to my workday, as I finish up some discovery responses in a legal case that I am working on. I have also enjoyed the fresh and clean smell of nature as the various plants outside of my office window open up to receive the rain.
During lunch I replied to a series of emails from a reader asking for advice on how to deal with the spiritual and emotional highs and lows of life. My advice to her was, as I have stated several times on previous posts, is to simply learn to go with the flow of life. I always, half jokingly, tell people to watch “The Big Lebowski“, and try to be more like Jeff Bridges’ character “The Dude”, because no matter the situation, The Dude abides. Read more…
“Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day.”- H.H. The 14th Dalai Lama
Too often I find myself falling into the “just get it over with” mentality trap. Usually this occurs on Mondays, or whenever I have a daunting project/task to accomplish. The problem with this mentality is that it pulls me out of living in the now, it causes me to not enjoy the present moment, and the wonderful experience of actually “living”.
When I fall into this mentality I basically go on auto pilot, which allows negative (counter-productive) thoughts and emotions to gain a foothold in my psyche. Once this begins to occur, it is easy to allow those negative thoughts and emotions to snowball into a myriad of negative mental states. Read more…
I live with two Taoist masters, yes two, they are my two dogs, Willie and Suzie. Now then, before you click away thinking I have lost my mind, let me explain.
One of Taoism’s central goals is to live in harmony with the natural flow of the universe (known as the Tao, hence where the religion gets its name). One of the central concepts ofthe fluid and harmonious philosophy of Taoism is reflected in the essential Taoist concept of Wu Wei (action without action). Wu Wei is best described as effortless action, or acting without acting. While this may seem paradoxical, it simply means acting in accordance with the natural flow of the universe. For example: a stream flows without having to consciously act to flow, heavenly bodies revolve and orbit throughout the universe without any conscious action on their part, even plants and animals grow without having to consciously undertake actions to grow. Therefore, the key to Wu Wei is to simply act in accordance with nature; in other words, act when it’s appropriate, and refrain from acting when it’s inappropriate, basically learn to go with the flow of life. Read more…
This year has been a time of change and protest around the world. The protestors involved in the so called “Arab Spring” facilitated the toppling of the Tunisian, Egyptian, and Libyan regimes, and have made significant impacts on numerous other Arab countries. During the past few weeks the various news sources, social media sites, and blogs have been abuzz with the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that began in the Wall Street district of New York City, and has subsequently spread to various cities across the U.S. Like the protestors involved in the Arab Spring, the Occupy protestors are standing up against the status quo in order to protest for change. One thing that has struck from all the protests, both from the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement, is the passion and resolve displayed by the protestors in order to bring about change.
So passionate are the protestors that they have put their lives on hold, and even completely changed the direction of their life in order to protest for change. In the case of the Arab Spring, those protestors quite literally put their lives, and the lives of their families at risk. However, given Oakland California’s recent heavy-handed response to the protestors, it appears that the protestors from the Occupy movement are not immune from the risk of physical harm, and even death.
The way that all of the protestors have been willing to completely give up the life they knew in order to pursue a cause they believed in reminded me of several religious and political leaders including: The Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, Gandhi, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to just name a few. Read more…