Categories
Buddhism Dharma teaching

Happiness and Suffering are Inseparable

Suffering and happiness are inseparable. We all have both and they both come and go throughout our lives – at least up to this point in my life. Our practice of Mindfulness is an effort to transform our suffering into happiness. It is an effort to move in the direction of joy. It is an effort to move in the direction of being truly present and to be present for our families, our friends, and our community. In doing so, we can alleviate a great deal of suffering for those around us, and to cause less suffering in the future. We can make the world a beautiful place in the present moment.

In the very first talk given by the Buddha, he outlines this foundational concept. The First Noble Truth says there is suffering, ill-being. The Second is about the cause of our suffering, and the Third Noble Truth talks of the cessation of suffering. This is the presence of happiness. We can learn how to produce happiness. We have many practices for this transformation, but I especially am drawn to the two foundational practices of meditation of “stopping” and “looking deeply.”

We can do this. Just a few short hours of practice and we can begin to train our mind. It’s quite simple to discover happiness in the present moment and to transform our relationships.

We have been offered mindful breathing exercises. The first is following our breath – mere recognition. This can be done anytime, anywhere. We can use sounds and images from the world around to remind us to return to our breathing. For example, I have a computer application that invites me to stop every 70-minutes. But it could be the telephone, a red light, a child’s laughter. We stop and come back to our breathing. This is stopping. It can be practiced anytime, anywhere. I love this practice. I begin my training with sitting meditation, but it doesn’t have to stop on the cushion. Learn to discover methods to following our breath. When we feel anger, frustration, or despair, returning to our breath can immediately bring us relief. Try it – it’s true!

The next steps outlined for mindful breathing is awareness of our body and releasing tension. Learning to calm our body. Where is our body? We can do this when we are standing, walking, sitting, and lying down – and know that we are doing each. My emotions often come through strongly in my body. How does my body feel? How does my body behaves? In touching this we can bring relieve. In recognizing the body, we see the connection between body and mind. This is especially true when we practice sitting meditation – we should see the unity of body and mind. For some, walking meditation works much better than just sitting.

If we can practice these first few exercises, then we can also nourish joy, happiness and learn to explore our feelings. Maybe we try something like this:

Breathing in, I feel joyful. Breathing out, I feel joyful.
Breathing in, I feel happy. Breathing out, I feel happy.

It is a simple practice, silly even, but it can bring a lot of transformation. There are people who have no peace and joy because they cannot stop their thinking. We can also practice joy by bringing awareness to those parts of our body we may not always remember – our eyes, our heart, our liver. Breathing in, I know know I have two good eyes. Breathing out, I feel joy.

Happiness goes a little further. The story often given is that of a person in the desert who sees an oasis. She is joyful upon discovering the oasis and she is happy when she takes a drink from the water.

Here I have outlined just the first six exercises of mindful breathing. These exercises of mindful breathing can bring about personal transformation, but it can provide the foundation to bring transformation to our relationships – relationships with our parents, our children, our consumption.

Categories
Dharma Family Library

Interdependence and Hope

The theme of ACRL 2011 is interdependence. So much comes together each day to create our life experience. Some things are very tangible, like the keynote speech by Raj Patel giving very practical information about the world economy. Other things are a little less tangible, but no less real, like my wife’s support for my professional life. I also see my own past, including fears and dreams, seeking to surface.

I have a long history of seemingly radical politics, social justice efforts, and personal action to effect change in the world. In recent years I’ve probably become less radicalized because I’ve had a difficult time connecting with other radicals – the anger, the frustration, the drama are challenging.

I also have an awareness of the apparent contradictory nature of the world I live in – comfortable life, good work, professional travel, nice clothes, extreme hunger, poverty, economic collapse, environmental disaster, etc. This is my life and perhaps I judge myself to harshly. All these elements make up my being. They are connected.

Today I feel inspired to embrace this contradiction. People are so full of kindness, generosity, and intelligence. We are also full of many challenges and personal struggles. We smoke. We drink. We swear. We stumble. And yet it doesn’t mean we can’t be kind and generous. the people I’ve interacted with today demonstrate this to me.

I’m feeling the Interbeing nature of my life from experiences today. Thank you to those who touched me today. Good people are here. Please help me to keep my eyes open.

Categories
Buddhism Dharma Family

Relationships, Community, and Sexual Energy

I was honored to serve on the Question & Answer panel for this year’s Holiday Retreat at Deer Park Monastery with Br. Phap Hai, Sr. Mat Nghiem, Br. Phap De, Sr. Dac Nghiem, and Dharmacharya Eileen Kiera. As a Dharmacharya in training, every opportunity given to share with an audience pushes me to deepen my own practice. This is my first time serving on a panel such as this and is a rare because the panel was composed of the four fold sangha (monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen) rather than just monastics.  I have linked just the questions and responses I gave (19-minutes), as well as to the entire session (114-minutes). I spoke primary of relationships, community, and sexual energy.

Kenley Only

Complete Session – begins with a period of silent sitting