Thought of the Day: December 1, 2017
Never allow yourself to fall into the trap of feeling sorry for someone; it
won’t do you or them any good. Instead, when seeing another in pain,
think that what you are seeing is symbiotic of the pain in the world, and
try to feel that deep down in your bones. This is how to think about
pain, to meditate on it, and internalize it until you catch a glimpse of its
universality.

                 * * *

Thought of the Day: December 2, 2017

As an early teen learning to surf my mentor taught me something about
surfing that I have been able to carry into my meditation practice. When
we surf, we gain speed by walking forward on the board, the closer to
the front of it, the “nose,” as possible, without digging it under, which
causes one to “pearl” and lose control.

My friend taught me to approach this delicate task courageously and
always aim to go a little further than I thought I could. This requires a
good deal of finesse, and is generally the domain of only experienced
surfers. I “pearled” many times before I found the right place on the
front of the board.

Meditation is not goal oriented like surfing, or isn’t supposed to be, but
the reality is that we set times for meditation, and length of meditation
periods. Often these are regarded as fixed and we discipline ourselves
accordingly. But, nothing is really fixed in the domain of spiritual
inquiry, and we must do what it takes to move forward (no pun
intended), which may mean putting forth extra effort.

Meditation periods, and the number of sessions are to be understood as
guidelines, and not set in stone. We should try and push beyond them,
and challenge our own guidelines.

                 * * *

If you feel like you are on top of the world and don’t want to be kicked
off, keep your exuberance to yourself.

I once heard the story of a Chan monk who had a break through while
meditating and was absorbed in a bright green light and experienced
great bliss. After this experience, he rose from his seat and started to
leave the meditation hall to tell his teacher about the experience. On his
way out, however, he remembered teachings he had received about
attaching too much importance to blissful experiences (which could be
just psychic experiences) and he returned to meditate some more. When
he sat down again he had a major awakening that he could talk to his
master about.

As far as our spiritual practice is concerned, we should avoid discussing
our experiences casually, and reserve any discussion of experiences to
our master, and then only as necessary.
                           * * *

Sometimes we tend to think spiritual inquiry is more difficult than it is,
and consequently feel such inquiry is too overwhelming to embark
upon. Instead, we leave aside inquiry that could bring an entirely new
dimension to our lives.

Spiritual inquiry need not be a complicated affair at all, something the
Buddha points out in detail in the Shurangama Sutra. This sutra offers
us methods of inquiry that are surprisingly simple and yet offer
profound results. Much of what it discusses asks us to investigate our
common assumptions and question them. For example, we say we “see”
with our eyes, but even this matter is not so simple. We seldom ask
ourselves “how” we see with our eyes, whether form comes to the eyes,
or whether eyes go to form, or if they meet in the middle, such
questions we would seldom consider, but the Buddha points out that
these questions are not as elementary as they may seem, and that by
inquiring into them we can gain spiritual insight.

Interestingly, modern physicists have considered the exact questions
mentioned above. Richard Feynman, for example, who won the Nobel
Prize for his research on light, poses questions about how we see and
light similar to those posed by the Buddha over twenty-five hundred
years prior. Feynman asks, if the light of objects came to us, enabling us
to see various forms, why wouldn’t someone nearby see the light
streaking to that person. The Buddha, likely unknown Feynman, posed
the same question.

Spiritual inquiry is a matter of examining the “writing on the wall,” our
assumptions, things we take for “givens” and for granted, to see that our
beliefs are often unfounded and unreasonable. Spiritual inquiry doesn’t
ask us to get involved in complicated inquiries, but to learn how to
engage our mind in simple ones.

Everyday we should examine the ordinary affairs of life, continually
questioning our common assumptions, and ask ourselves if there is
something we might be missing. We don’t need to find an answer, it is
enough if we can get absorbed in the inquiry.

                           * * *
Thought of the Day: December 5, 2017

It is a season when many of us will be shopping for gifts for the holiday
season, and shopping offers an excellent opportunity to give our practice
of non-attachment a reality check. How many of us have shopped,
ostensibly, for others, and ended up picking up things for oneself? I
make it a practice to resist the temptation to get something staring at me
saying you must own me, but I must admit, I am not free of being
tempted.

When I shop for others, I take it as a challenge to see if I can pass
through the mall or store without being attracted to a purchases for
myself. For me, if I can, it is a sign that I am progressing in my practice
of non-attachment and becoming less materialistic. But, I don’t reserve
this exercise only for the holiday season. There are other ways, too.

We all need to shop now and then for basic household needs. One
exercise I do whenever I shop is similar to the above-mentioned holiday
shopping. I try my best to shop for only the stuff I set out to get. If I
succeed, I feel I have vindicated my practice of non-attachment. But, if I
find myself constantly struggling to resist other purchases, I feel that I
must work on my materialistic mind and simplicity.

Living comfortably within one’s mean is regarded as a virtue and
meritorious. I try to live this way, and find that shopping, whether for
others or myself, gives me valuable insight into how much more work I
must do. To be able to give without thinking of oneself, or keep to a
grocery list without distraction, is a good exercise for anyone. The
likelihood in finding peace in few possession and simple life, is far
greater than doing so with an extravagant life.
                           * * *
Thought of the Day: December 6, 2017

If you are blessed with abundance, give before it is taking away from
you.

Even if we somehow manage to keep our wealth despite our stinginess,
it will surly torment us for our joy is limited to one, and when we keep
our abundance to ourselves, we deprive ourselves of sharing the joy of
many. If we are in a position to make one person beside our self happy,
we have doubled our happiness, if we make two people besides our self
happy we have tripled our happiness, and so on.

Often, those who don’t share good fortune, are visited with misfortune.
If our good deeds and merit has brought good fortune our way, we
guard it by sharing it with others, and certainly not by keeping it to
ourselves.

                           * * *
Thought of the Day: December 7, 2017

If you are warmhearted, it doesn’t matter what the weather is like
outside, so this Christmas season, let us celebrate friendship, family, and
our global interconnectedness, by remembering that we all share a
common wish to be happy, and let us each resolve to make all those that
we come into contact with fulfil that wish.

Being happy ourselves depends in a large part on our ability to make
others happy, for no greater joy there is than sharing the joy of another.
Whether we are the source of that joy or not, rejoicing because of
another’s good fortune is an unselfish kind of happiness that is without
limits.

We are each, but a single individual and our happiness is limited to a
single individual, but if we train our mind to share in the joy of others,
we open the door to an infinitely more expansive source of happiness.
This holiday season is an excellent time to practice sharing in the joy of
others. Where there is already joy, share in it and feel it as your own, and
where there is little joy, try your best to make it possible. And, always
remember to pray that all people are free of suffering, wherever they
may be, and that they realize their wish to be happy.

                           * * *
Thought of the Day: December 8, 2017

Empathy is a catch phrase now, and everyone wants to be an empath,
but it is not as easy as it may seem to be a knight in shining armor.

Wishing to help others and the ability to do so, are entirely separate
matters. Empathy must be intentionally cultivated, and not only a
reaction to a friend or family member’s need. We must sit down daily
and meditate on the suffering of people throughout the world, seeing it
on increasingly subtle levels, and the pervasiveness of it, and exercise our
mind regularly through such meditation, to be prepared to help one in
need.

Being an empath is a commitment that will take daily reflection, but if
we make the commitment, we will be able to acquire the depth of
compassion necessary to see the suffering of a single individual as
symbiotic of the suffering of many, and benefit many, as one benefits
one.

Depersonalizing empathy is essential to understanding it. People in the
world suffer, and we should try to feel this just as we would the
suffering of one close to us. If we can doo this, we are approaching the
goal of the empath.

                           * * *
Thought of the Day: December 9, 2017

Belly aches are the bane of the holiday season and many a wonderful
evening have ended in discomfort. Food combinations are often the
culprit, too many different foods.

A good rule to follow to avoid stomach distress is to avoid combining
too many foods, and keep the combinations as simple as possible. When
our mouth hasn’t finished chewing one thing and we are already
thinking of something else, greed is in charge, and must be reined in.

We will enjoy our meal more by not trying a bit of everything, than if we
had, and are less likely to have unwelcome aftereffects.

                                 * * *

Thought of the Day: December 10, 2017

It is easy to pray, but difficult to know what to pray for. If we were to
truly reflect and investigate what we want, many of the things and
circumstances we think we want would fall by the wayside, and we
would begin to realize how much we have already.

Prayer is not a casual matter and should be well directed and reflected
upon. It is not easy to know what we really need to feel fulfilled, so
before embarking on making any requests, we should give the matter
due thought. It helps to think of it as having just one opportunity and
make as meaningful a prayer as we can.

Just as when have the opportunity to question a religious teacher,
knowing that our time will be limited and that he can likly read our
mind, we should pray to the object of our for something we feel
                          * * *
Thought of the Day: December 11, 2017

If we do not think the intention behind doing something represents us
well, we should try our best to refrain from acting, but if we must act,
we should be transparent; which may not be pleasant, but at least its
honest.  

                          * * *
Thought of the Day: December 12, 2017

As we strive for perfection on the spiritual path, no matter the route we
embark upon, we must not assume the journey is the same as arriving,
a kind of arrogance of many who have been on the trail too many
months and years to count, that it has become a way of life, that has
lost the enthusiasm of a seeker.

A seeker should always have a spark of enthusiasm throughout the
long journey, and such enthusiasm is only furled by humility and a
humble attitude. Moreover, if we haven’t obtained our aims and yet say
and act as if we had, we automatically circumscribe ourselves by our
words and create an obstacle to further realization.

                          * * *
Thought of the Day: December 13, 2017

Sometimes we are running so fast that we can’t keep pace with
shopping for others, try not to purchase anything for oneself, as this
will slow our pace down. Also, know who you are shopping for and
don’t allow yourself to be distracted by things that catch your eye
causing you to say, “so and so will like this,” save so and so for
another trip. Shop well within your means and don’t try to buy
impressive gifts; they won’t represent you any better than something
simple.

Shopping is a good opportunity to observe our own greed, for
invariably we will see things we want for ourselves. A good exercise is
to make a mental note of the things that catch your eye saying buy me
for yourself. The more we truly have others in mind, the less likely it is
we will have such thoughts arise in our mind, so this is an excellent
way to gauge our attachment and greed.

Avoid misplaced generosity or getting gifts because you feel you have
to. Giving must come from the heart and be within financial means.
With a little creative thinking and discipline, we can find our way to a
happier holiday season by taking the stress out of shopping.

                          * * *

Being one with all beings is said to be great compassion, and as
difficult as it may be, it is well worth the effort to understand the truth
of these words. Felling united with all beings and socially responsible
and caring is not an attitude that we can just assume; it must arise
without pretense and uncontrived.

A compassionate and loving warm heartedness is developed through
daily reflection. We take a little time each day or use our spare time to
reflect on the fact that just as we wish to be happy, so do others, that
just as we wish to be free of suffering, so do others, that just as we
wish our material need be met, so do others. If we wish that our lives
go well, we can make it a goal to try to have the same wish for others.

People everywhere are struggling just as we are struggling, and by
contemplating that fact we develop a concern for the welfare of others
that will undermine selfishness, and instill a more universal concern
that merges our own wish for well being with the well being of others.
It is a lofty aim we cannot accomplish all at once, but over time.

                          * * *
Thought of the Day: December 15, 2017

Often it is the case that we fault something we have, when in fact it is
the use we have made of it that should be faulted. It is important to
recognize this because if we don’t we will accumulate things
unnecessarily. This morning I tripped on a concrete rise in the sidewalk
and my first response was that my flashlight, a very dim one, wasn’t
bright enough. But, although it is very dim, it has gotten me along the
path I tripped on many times, and has the potential to do so many
more times. The impulse to use my fall as an excuse to buy a flashlight
is misplaced. Moreover, it disguises the fact that had I been more
careful, I would have noticed the rise. I was probably just distracted by
thoughts, and may have fallen even with a good flashlight.

If we don’t want to have garages and closets we can’t walk through, it
is probably a good idea to learn to be patient with what we have, even
though better things may be out there. It may be difficult at first, but
as  time passes, we will break the habit of accumulating we will find
satisfaction in the virtue of being content with what we have.

                          * * *
Thought of the Day: December 16, 2017

Happy Birthday Rachel!

People generally like others to agree with them, with one notable
exception. If we agree with someone who is admonishing himself for
his unwanted habits, smoking drinking, cheating of his wife, then he
becomes enraged! How funny is that? Actually, it is symbiotic of a big
problem we all share and that is our reluctance to listen to our own
inner promptings when they butt up against our addictions. Either we
don’t feel strong enough to confront unwanted attachments, or, we
rather live with them and accept the responsibility for doing so. Both
inclinations are equally wrong.

When it comes to addictions, great or small, it is best to consider our
body as a loan and something we do not own, because this attitude is
more conducive to yielding to sound reason than thinking we are the
steward of our own ship. Obviously, we aren’t the steward of our own
ship or we would not be anchored to bad habits, habits we would like
to be free of. Therefore, we should view our body as a loan that we
must pay back in good condition and not misuse.

Be courageous and strong and obstructing attachments can be subdued
and abandoned. If we form the right intention, we can overcome all
obstacles. They are all of our creation, and therefore it is within our
power to dissolve them.

                                   * * *
Thought of the Day: December 18, 2017

When others criticize us in what may seem like an unjust way, we
should take time to think whether we are not interpreting their criticism
in the sense that they mean it. Criticism should never be lightly brushed
off for hidden within it may be insight that will prove useful. This is
true even if the criticism was hurled as an insult, much the less, even
more so constructive criticism. Those who take criticism well grow
easily and are tolerant.

                               * * *
Thought of the Day: December 19, 2017

If we spent five minutes reflecting on the recipients of the gifts we give
this holiday season, for every dollar we spend on the gifts, we will find
it far easier to give from the heart, and not just as a ritualistic Christmas
formality.

                             * * *
Thought of the Day: December 20, 2017

Christmas is a time when many who don’t go to church, go, and then
wait till next Christmas to go again. Many Buddhist are the same way,
on the Buddhas birthday they go to the temple, and wait till next year to
go again. This is rather remarkable because most have a great time in
their respective places of worship during this time of year.
Irrespective of which religious tradition we follow, if we are one who
attends worship ceremonies on holiday, but neglects regular attendance,
we are losing the opportunity to experience the benefits of disciplined
attendance.

A good way to get motivated to attend church services more frequently
would be to challenge oneself periodically to attend with the goal in
mind of having an experience that equals or surpasses the “holiday
experience”.

The “holiday experience” does not have to be an isolated event. It
depends on us, but we can make it great every time we go if we have a
positive attitude and don’t accept failure. Just go, and have faith in the
process.
                                  * * *
Thought of the Day: December 21, 2017

Last Christmas my son, Kai, gave me a set of three sox, and it was one
of the gifts that I appreciated the most. He remarked as he gave them
to me, “I remembered you like this brand (Smartwool) and thought
you would like them” I don’t know what touched me more the gift or
the fact that he remembered the brand, probably the latter.

It is often said that it is the “thought that counts,” which it seems we
can easily lose sight of if we are not careful. Sometimes we feel
obligated to give gifts because someone gave us one, but it shouldn’t
be this way. We shouldn’t expect to receive a gift for everyone we give,
nor should we give because someone gave us one. Giving is not buying
or bartering. Sometimes we give and don’t receive something in return;
and sometimes we receive, and don’t give something. It is all part of
the holiday spirit. The main thing is that we share good, warmhearted
feelings with one another.

Remembering casual acquaintances, grocers, postmen, shopkeepers,
and so forth, with a small gift or card, for it shows we appreciate their
services and we feel warm regard for them. Little gestures mount up,
so we shouldn’t ignore them. Everyone likes to feel appreciated.

As far as gifts go, we can all take a que from my son and be thoughtful
about the person’s preferences and avoid impulsive buying, a gift of
lesser value, that hits the spot, will make a better impression because it
reflects that you carefully selected it with them in mind.

Last, but not least, don’t shop when tired or rushed; that will only
cause impulsive buying and we won’t enjoy the experience of giving.
Be fresh and stop shopping before fatigue sets in. You will make better
and more thoughtful purchases.

                                           * * *
Thought of the Day: December 22, 2017

Pleasure is easy to come by, but its consequences often come at a price
that leave us indebted for a long, long, time.

                                           * * *
A commitment to practice the dharma is not only a contract with
oneself, but others, as well. When we maintain a spiritual discipline
well, the benefits reach beyond our personal ambitions. Dharma
practice benefits not only those closest to us, but everyone on our
planet. To some extent the positive prayers and aspirations associated
with meditation and rituals guarantees that we will have an influence on
others, perhaps a very minute one, but as our practice strengthens, so
does the power to uplift and benefit others.

Great Masters who have strong realization extend the reach and depth
of their prayers throughout the world, and although we may not be
enlightened as they are, our practice will also affect others. Therefore,
we shouldn’t think that our practice is our business, and no one else’s.
By taking up the spiritual path, we have by default dedicated the fruit
of our practice to others. If we let ourselves down, we let others down.
If we succeed, we lift others up, and carry them along in our tailwinds.

If others succeed, we also benefit from their dharma practice. Entering
the path of meditation entails a dedication to others, which means
when we practice the dharma we become part of a global community
which comes a commitment to others and responsibility. And, since it
is for others as it is for us, entering the dharma is like becoming part of
a big family, whose aspiration is the success of the whole rather than
the fulfilment of individual aims, we are part of a team.

And, the reverse is also true: If we fail ourselves, we fail others. It is
like carrying a heavy object with a few people; if one member gives up,
it will affect everyone.
If others succeed, we also benefit from their dharma practice.

Entering the path of meditation entails a dedication to others, which
means when we practice the dharma we become part of a global
community which comes a commitment to others and responsibility.
And, since it is for others as it is for us, entering the dharma is like
becoming part of a big family, whose aspiration is the success of the
whole rather than the fulfilment of individual aims, we are part of a
team..

                                          * * *

Thought of the Day: December 24, 2017

This evening many will celebrate mid-night mass in remembrance of a
great sage entering our world. No need to be Buddhist to celebrate.
The message delivered by Christ could have been said by the buddha,
as well. All of us can benefit by taking time in quite reflection and
thinking of this great sage's message of this holy day.

I remember one very special Christmas about twenty years ago when
my daughters were young. They had Catholic friends over for a holiday
sleep over and I surprised them by announcing a mid-night mass in my
shrine room. We gathered amidst a pantheon of Buddhist icons and a
lovely Buddha statue on the altar and I recited the Sermon on the
Mount. It was truly wonderful!--- at least I thought so.

                                          * * *
Thought of the Day: December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas everybody!

For me this time a year is a valuable time to reflect on Christ’s
teachings, which are foundational for any Dharma practice, whether it
be Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and even if one is
without religion. Basically, Christ taught basic human values, and we
can all learn from his teaching. What we already know, we can read
again and again, and deepen our understanding and remove our own
obstacles that may be preventing us from embracing what we
understand well in theory.

It is a time for getting together with family and friends, and how well
we remember those family and friends in the month and year that
follows will depend in large part on what we discuss and how valuable
the conversations we have really are. We can learn from one another,
and if we do that, those conversations will stick in our mind and we
will fondly remember them. So let’s keep frivolous talk to minimum,
and value our ability to truly communicate.
                                          * * *
Thought of the Day: December 26, 2017

drown, we better learn how to swim, and that means putting on a
lifejacket. What is the lifejacket? It is the precepts, which are basically
moral and ethical disciplines that create the foundation for being a
good human being and practicing Dharma. While the precepts may
not seem very interesting, maintaining them will assure that our
practice is successful.

If we maintain precepts, meticulously guarding our conduct, and our
desires, and emotions which lead to anger, our practice of meditation
will not be vulnerable to the obstacles caused by desire run amok, or
emotions such as anger and hatred and lust. If we were completely
free of desire, we wouldn't have to bother with precepts, but since
very few of us could make such a claim, it’s better that we take
precautions where can.
                                          * * *

It is a natural desire of all human beings to fulfill the wishes of others.
We are nurturing by nature and constantly seek to express that. Even
when we see a stranger struggling, we will offer assistance if we can.

The problem with expressing our natural helpfulness, and having the
ability to be sensitive to other’s needs when it might not be so obvious,
is that we have our own desires and these often dim our awareness of
the needs of others.

The surest way to become sensitive to the needs of others is to have
less desire and attachment ourselves. It is not easy to free ourselves of
selfishness, but without doing so, it is not going to be easy to fulfill the
wishes of others because we won’t know what they are if we are busy
thinking of our own wishes.

If we can picture a balance scale with our desires on one side and our
awareness of other’s desires on the other, as our awareness of our own
wants decreases, our ability to recognize other’s wants increases. If we
wish to shift our focus from selfish ambitions to altruistic ambitions,
we need to decrease the weight on our side of the scale.

There is no greater joy than bringing joy to others, but it is also very
difficult because of our inherent selfish ambitions. However, once we
acknowledge that selfishness is in the way of our developing a more
altruistic viewpoint, we are on our way to eliminating selfishness. Daily
contemplation on selfishness and altruism will naturally foster the latter
and undermine the former.
                                          * * *
It is a well-known fact that those who are advanced in meditation can
days, during which time all of their faculties are in total balance and
time stands still. We too, though we may not be as advanced as the
yogis, will experience greater balance  in our lives when we consume
less, and the opposite is also true, for when we are out of balance ,we
consume more ,eat more, sleep more, want to shop more, and so forth.
The simple fact is that harmony fosters peace within and without.

If we think about it, what is true of the microcosm is true of the
macrocosm, what’s true for the yogi is true for the planet. What we can
learn from the yogi is that if we can be in balance as a nation ,as a
community ,as the city ,as a people ,our environment will also be in
harmony and sustain us without our depleting it ,for we will rejuvenate
whatever we take out and in this way not suffer the consequences of
global warming, pollution ,and the consequences of dwindling oil
supplies. The simple fact is that humanity should think of themselves as
a big body, a huge yogi, and try to find balance and work together, for
in so doing we protect the planet which we all depend upon equally.

Thought of the Day: December 29, 2017

Sometimes the best therapist is a broom and sponge, a bucket and a
mop, some gardening tools, and so forth. Often , when feeling low, we
pick the wrong solution to pick ourselves up (no pun intended). We
seek distraction in entertainment, phone calls, idle talk by the water
cooler and anything that needs to remove us from whatever emotion
we are having. But the fact is ,if we can humble ourselves a little bit ,
simple tasks like cleaning a kitchen  thoroughly , giving the bathroom a
once over, getting outside and weeding the flower bed, mowing the
lawn, pruning some trees, just might work magic.

Our problems would like to keep us in their grip forever, and have us
run away from them through distracting activities, but, as
counterintuitive as it may, be, a little hard work, and absorbing our
mind in menial tasks is all we really need. So, let us turn difficulties to
our favor and face problems in a way that offer practical benefits., too  
It is really not that difficult to put a smile on our face.

                                        * * *
Thought of the Day: December 31, 2017

It is said that false thinking makes us tired and that if it weren’t for
false thinking we wouldn’t need to sleep at all. If we have less false
thinking we have more time in our day to cultivate the way, to practice
meditation, and do things that are necessary. The irony is that those
who do the most false thinking need meditation the most. and yet our
false thinking causes us to need a lot of sleep.

What is false thinking? It is just thinking about the long short, the good
and bad, the beautiful and ugly, it is just basically dualistic thinking,
wearying our mind about things we don’t really have to think about. It
is thinking about things that really don’t pertain to us, idle thinking,
gossiping, needlessly reflect reflecting on things we don’t really need to
reflect about, it is the endless chatter of the mind.

What is the absence of false thinking? It is thinking with intention,
maintaining a well-reasoned and logical train of thought that does not
scatter in every direction. It is placing our mind on an idea or task we
have to do and keeping it there without letting it wander. This kind of
thought does not tire out the mind no matter how much we engage in.
In fact, it is nourishing.

False thinking is a thief that robs us of much of our life because it
leads us to sleep more. If we find ourselves indulging it too much sleep
and taking comfort in it, it is a sure sign that we are not living her life
to the fullest. If we were productive during our waking hours and not
distracted, we would find our activities a source of great pleasure far
surpassing sleep.  If we find ourselves indulging it too much sleep or
taking too much delighted it, we should take stock and reflect on the
fact that idle thought, (the “devil’s workshop”) is not our friend by any
means and that by staying focused and undistracted, with thought well-
reasoned and logical, our days will pass more fully and enjoyably.


                                        * * *