Buddhism

When You Stop Meditating Consistently...

zazen_and_nature_by_aik_art-d3i4beg.jpg

There is an old Zen saying: You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour. That saying always resonated with me because it speaks to the importance of meditation not only for relieving anxiety and being productive but for seeing the true nature of your mind and reality.  

But I haven't been meditating consistently. I could give you a lot of excuses or reasons. There has been lots of travel and change in my life recently for instance. Those are perfectly valid reasons... 

The odd thing about not meditating consistently is that you stop remembering what you are missing. Your mind turns into slush like most people's. Your attention span is much shorter. Your emotions pop around like a pinball. You're more susceptible to mood swings or giving into unproductive habits. But the thing is you're mostly unaware that you're doing it. 

And that is the real benefit of meditation: awareness. Awareness of your smallest movements or your breath. Awareness of what spikes your anxiety or what your temptations are. Awareness is key. Without awareness, we can become mindless, following our every urge or instinct with reflection. Without awareness, we can easily become the worst versions of ourselves. And it is that thought that always gets me to put meditation back on the calendar every morning even if I don't always do it. 

In Praise of Pantheism

In Praise of Pantheism

“I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.”- Albert Einstein

Just a quick blog post before I get back to real work...

I've been mulling over my religious views more lately as I've contemplated what a spiritual life looks like. Despite admiring some of its thought, I've found atheism or agnosticism lacking as a worldview, but the monotheistic ideas of a personal God are far worse and repellent to me at least as it can often promote the worst in human nature (i.e. see all of human history from the crusades to 9/11). 

I've found myself drawn to Buddhism as an adult because there are no creator gods. The goal is to end suffering. There are no strict dogmas, but useful list of guidelines to get there known as the four noble truths and the eightfold path. 

Deepak Chopra Is Selling $350 Meditation Glasses. Deepak Chopra Is A Fraud

Deepak Chopra Is Selling $350 Meditation Glasses. Deepak Chopra Is A Fraud

I've always had an uneasy relationship with commerce and spirituality. (I even feel weird putting ads on this website, even though it's really just to try and pay for the costs of hosting this website). But I do think there is much value in mindfulness meditation and the spread of meditation centers and apps; these things probably help many in our age of anxiety and late capitalism. 

But when I see an article about  "Luxury Meditation Class" in the Flatiron District, or how everyone in Google meditates to essentially be more productive,  my first reaction is to throw up a little in my mouth and then get angry. (From that article, "Johanna Sistek, a trademark lawyer, says the emotional skills she refined in the class help her focus on her many tasks, despite a fire hose of professional demands. Like most of her colleagues, she still faces “instant deadlines” but says they no longer freak her out." This might be the worst thing I've ever read). 

Why does this upset me so? Well, Buddhism is first and foremost about ending suffering. Not just your own suffering but the suffering of all sentient beings. And a Buddhist accomplishes this by following the Eightfold Path.  Meditation is a part of the Eightfold Path, but it is only a small part of it. So much of the Eightfold Path is about morality, including Right Livelihood, which tells us that we cannot choose careers that exploit, and Right Action, which tells we must abstain from killing, sexual misconduct and creating suffering in other people directly. 

And meditating to become productive or lessen your anxiety has so little to do with any morality or ending suffering. It's about lessening your anxiety so you can continue to be productive and a good consumer. An $18 dollar meditation class or Google's meditation centers does little to address any real morality or change in the world. In fact, it's just the opposite: It just reinforces neoliberalism through and through. 

Want to Stay Married? Embrace Change

Want to Stay Married? Embrace Change

This morning I was rereading a wonderful New York Times piece from April called, "To Stay Married, Embrace Change." As a Buddhist, It's a particularly resonate read for me. It reminds me of something Roshi Shunryu Suzuki said when asked to reduce Buddhism down to one phrase, 

"Everything Changes."

As the article points out, to have a successful marriage, we need to realize that we will change but so will our partner.