the Dhammapada verse 103
Though one should conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, he who conquers his own self, is the greatest of all conquerors.
…..and now, back by popular demand, the BEAT BUGS
Laughter – have you shared a laugh today? Here’s a guffaw for you and yours.
You and I have within us the ability to make this day part of a successful journey or a meaningless struggle leaving us weary and eager to simply bring the day to an end. We have that power when we first arise in the morning. Don’t grab the phone to check messages, don’t turn on the TV to catch up on news, don’t open the newspaper to front page headlines – just don’t. Say no to all that noise and listen to your own voice for a few minutes. What do I want this day to be like? How will I make this a day that will be memorable? What can I do for the next hour or two hours that will set this day apart from all the others?
We have been designed to live our lives with unimaginable success and contentment. It all begins before throwing back the blankets and swinging our legs out over the bed. Just be still for a moment and open the day with a gratitude list. Listen to your breath, feel your heartbeat, wiggle your toes, then hear the voice inside which says, “I love you, I really do love you. You are worthy and you are perfect just as you are in this moment.”
Confirm that inner voice and plan a perfect day. It will be one in which everything that happens leads to another leg of your journey to success. Namaste. 🙏
So, you’re a gambler? How often do you win? Excites you, doesn’t it? The thrill of the bet, the risk-taking, the ecstasy of a win, the personal satisfaction in knowing you have beaten the odds. Ok, good for you.
How often do you lose? How much? A lot? Really? Sounds like you might be losing more than you win. Yeah, I know it’s just entertainment; after all, you’re not addicted, right?
Do you gamble with your life? A risk-taker? Do you jump out in front of moving traffic? Do you play Russian roulette with your friends? How about unprotected sex? It’s just gambling, right?
Life is more than just a roll of the dice. When you wake up in the morning, rolling those blocks of chance, giving the day’s promises to Lady Luck is going to guarantee one of three outcomes. You will either win or you will lose or the day will wind up a wash-out. That’s just 1 in 3 chances of having a great day.
Try this instead. Open your eyes, look around the room, appreciate the bed in which you slept comfortably, and let the first words out of your mouth be a sincere “Thank you. I am so greatly blessed.”
Monkey brain will attempt to engage. Will you allow it? Got to clean the bathroom, must call the pharmacy, need to get groceries, Johnny needs a clean shirt, the cat has fleas, North Korea is going to bomb us, the world is ending, I’ve got to vacuum the rugs…..”oh Lord I’m so weary already!”
STOP! Don’t let monkey brain begin your day. Instead, breathe in. Air is rushing over your lungs, aerating the blood, pumping fresh life into your organs, bringing life to limbs. Wiggle those toes, shake out the cramps from sleeping on your arm, wipe the sleepies from you eyes, hold that breath and then…..exhale. Release the thoughts trying to capture your thinking, inhale again. Exhale, inhale, exhale. Envision your body parts waking up to a great new day. Breathe in, then breathe out.
Now, you are ready to swing those legs out over the bed and rise to greet this day ahead of you. Are you going to roll the dice? No, of course not. You will make this the best day ever, the beginning of the rest of your life. Imagine how you want to enjoy today. Have a cup of coffee or tea on the patio listening to the melody of songbirds in the nearby oak trees. Watch the mother duck leading her hatchlings to the pond. Become amazed by the roses sharing their aroma in the morning air. Are you feeling it yet? Life is wonderful and a great day lies ahead.
Of course, if you would rather roll your dice, go for it. Read the morning headlines, turn up the volume of the TV. Fuss at Johnny for not putting his dirty shirt in the laundry. Scold the cat for being a cruise ship for fleas. Yell at your spouse for being such a slob in the bathroom. It’s your choice. Roll the dice and hope for the best or give the day a fighting chance to be terrific by waking up to the splendor that surrounds your life.
Wasn’t it Erma Bombeck who wrote, “If life is a bowl of cherries, what am I doing in the pits?” And remember what Confucius said? “When life gives you a bunch of lemons, make lemonade.”
See that fellow sitting in the question mark? That’s me now, been me 90% of my waking time and often I wonder if my sleeping time is not also consumed with questions. You are probably the same, are you not? It’s who we are – inquisitive and always looking for the answer. A favorite TV commercial from years ago showed a young boy with his father sharing quality time together. The boy’s response to everything the father did was, “Why?”
Why, why, why? Today’s internet has made answering our questions just a few key strokes away. Google it, ask the computer assistant, go to the online encyclopedia. Wikipedia is our guide to every query imaginable. We have online language translators, quote sources, and 54 versions of the Bible – just a click away.
“Alexa, why am I here?”
That charming voice emanating from your device will list numerous reasons for your physical existence, biological determinants and a bibliography of further research.
“But, Alexa, who put me here? What is my purpose here?”
Aha! Let’s play stump Alexa, shall we? I have asked those two questions of a multitude of common sense people, scholars, teachers, preachers, parents, friends, lovers, and strangers. And I have received a million differing answers. Why? Because nobody knows.
Theories abound, theologies are a dime a dozen, philosophies chase down bizarre dead ends, experts whimper with possibilities, but nobody knows for sure. Men of religion profess truth, gurus and yogis sit in lotus position meditating, rabbis quote ancient spiritual wisdom, and Buddha claims he attained enlightenment. But nobody knows for certain who put Larry Paul Brown on earth and what is his purpose here?
I can only assume my chosen path will be enlightening, that my faith is founded on truth, that my death will find me in a better place than my birth. I can only assume that my spiritual journey will not result in a train wreck or that my inner GPS has not miscalculated the directions.
We live by faith and experience, don’t we? Perhaps another important question to entertain is, “Whom do I trust?”
Will I trust all the aforementioned entities or will I look inward to what I have learned to be my honest assessment of me? Will I follow the indwelling Spirit and my inherent conscience in my decisions and behavior or will I give that responsibility to the man in the pulpit, the professional counselor, my best friend, my spouse or the jolly fat man sitting under the bodhi tree?
Famously, Polonius advises his 18 year-old son, Laertes, in Shakespeare’s HAMLET, ” This above all: to thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day. Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
Is the idea of peace on earth overrated? Probably so. By nature man is not an agreeable sort of creature. Man would sooner throw a few rocks and ask questions afterwards than engage in rational dialog first. History tells us that man, having never learned to compromise, has resorted instead to heavy clubs, then swords, then artillery, then nuclear weapons that can annihilate every species on earth and it’s habitat.
Mankind seems to be the only creature on earth that does not fit into the natural scheme of flora and fauna. Plant and animal lifeforms all intuitively know how to grow together, live together, and in many instances compliment the existence of one another. They do not wantonly kill because of philosophical differences or uncontrolled passions.
No, man is probably not held in high esteem by the world’s other creatures. Oh sure, that pet dog or cat loves you unconditionally, but stop putting out food for Rover or stop cleaning Fifi’s cat box and it’s just a matter of time before that dog will turn on you snapping at your heels or the feline poop producer will be crapping on your favorite chair. Don’t kid yourselves. Man is low on the totem pole of earthly inhabitants. He does not fit in and the rest of nature knows it.
In order to compensate, a complex system of theologies has been created proclaiming mankind as the master of all species, of all resources on earth in order to justify our existence. And then theology goes on to say that when our habitat has been trashed and destroyed, miraculously a savior will appear to clean up the mess we have made. Believe that if you must, but consider this. The nugget of truth in those earth-renewal philosophies is that mankind can be redeemed through an inner awakening, a fact-finding soul search that reveals our spiritual relevance in a crazy, chaotic world system. Many mystics have understood this, Francis and Clare of Assisi knew, Jesus the pauper from Nazareth recognized that each individual has within himself or herself the capacity to live in peace with himself, with humanity, with the earth itself.
I love the question following THE BIG BOOK’s (Alcoholics Anonymous) revelation of promises available through sober living. AA PROMISES “Are these extravagant promises? We think not.”
Is this an extravagant promise? Peace on earth? The Christian scriptures guarantee it.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27
We could rightfully say, “Bah humbug”, considering the turmoil and corruption which is rampant worldwide. We will continue on our road to destruction and annihilation when we forget that Jesus, in the words of John 14, qualifies his peace: “Not as the world giveth…”
I am chasing down the wrong trail when I envision a peaceful world as one with no wars, no famines, no oppression. What will save me from the surrounding darkness, from a troubled and fearful heart, is only available within. Quite possibly that is the peace on earth, goodwill toward men, that the book of Luke attributes to the angels singing to the shepherds watching their flocks.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14
It is an inside job. When we feed and nourish the soul through introspection, contemplation and meditation, when we read scriptures revealed by the wisdom of the ancients, then we can dwell in our world of peace and then we can extend that peace to all mankind.
Peace to you. Namaste. The Christmas season is a great time to discover a peaceful and fearless heart as proclaimed by Jesus the Christ, Buddha, Muhammad and other messengers of the ancient world. All of them claim a piece to the God puzzle.
“It is greedy desire and wrath, born of passion, the great evil, the sum of destruction: this is the enemy of the soul. All is clouded by desire: as fire by smoke, as a mirror by dust, as an unborn babe by its covering. Wisdom is clouded by desire, the ever-present enemy of the wise, desire in its innumerable forms, which like a fire cannot find satisfaction. Desire has found a place in man’s senses and mind and reason. Through these it blinds the soul, after having overclouded wisdom.” Krishna, BHAGAVAD GITA
With the beginning words in this excerpt from the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna laments the soul’s destruction through greedy desire and the wrath of passion. This deadly duo of greed and anger are reproved in Hindu writings. Greedy longing and craving coupled with extreme anger born of obsession and yearning are the sum of destruction. With ageless wisdom, the most ancient of wisdom’s revealers, Krishna, says that soul is perishable.
Buddha attributed suffering to desire. Humanity is not content with what it has and thereby desires what it does not have. When health, wealth, fame, fortune, peace, excitement, popularity, solitude, possessions, become the objects of man’s unfulfilled desires, suffering is the result.
Can we agree that much of mankind’s suffering in this life can be attributed to man’s covetousness, the desire for something not owned or controlled? The fathers of Judaism made this one of the commandments of the Decalogue as a means of preserving social order in the desert. “Thou shalt not covet.”
In today’s jargon, “Don’t covet your neighbor’s ass or his wife or his house or his servants or any of his stuff.” Pretty simple, right?
Desire for acceptance and social status drives most of contemporary society to keep up with the Joneses, working a second job to the detriment of family obligations in order to facilitate buying things not truly necessary to impress neighbors not necessarily neighborly. Desire for prestige drives many to sometimes boast, maybe lie, and possibly commit fraud to cover failings and inadequacies. That tangled web of desire, deceit, corruption and anger is indeed a soul-killer.
Just a glimpse – How’s your good heart today? Namaste!
Do we know what truth is? In today’s worldly rhetoric, truth has become a relative concept. Truth depends on circumstances, truth is shaped by one’s environment, truth can be bent to fit one’s personal ambitions. We are told that trusted news sources are untruthful and mankind is not inherently honest. Political views are castigated by those professing a different truth, spiritual bearing is challenged by sects who claim theirs is the only truth. So, the question is, “How do we know truth?”
Must we search? Should we read scriptures? Do we need to find a spiritual guru? The Buddha says the sun and the moon cannot be hidden for long. We know this to be truth because, when we look at the heavens, there we see the sun and the moon. That fact is evident, it is obvious. The Buddha also says truth cannot be hidden. It is as evident and as visual as the sun and the moon.
In the tradition of Buddhism, a path is offered. It is called MAGGA, the eight-fold pathway to enlightenment:
We should note that none of the eight-fold path involves deeply secretive, spiritual practices to finding enlightenment or truth. It is totally a manner of lifestyle which we undertake to the best of our abilities.
This directive set forth by Jesus of Nazareth is clearly specific. Know the teachings and lifestyle of the human manifestation of Christianity’s God, follow that example known as “the Way” as best as humanly possible, and we shall know the truth. Hallelujah! Truth is not relative to circumstances or environment. It cannot be manipulated or bent to one’s personal needs and desires. Truth is attainable by adherence to a lifestyle of love and compassion directed toward others, to ourselves, and to the Earth itself. It will be as evident as the sun and the moon in our skies.
It is our mission to share our truth. When attuned to the spiritual presence which defines each of us, we are able to share and communicate in a kindly manner the truth which has set us free. Jesus and the Buddha in us will always portray as non-violence in thought, word, and deed.
“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God……..” from Step 11 of ” TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS, Alcoholics Anonymous
Did we ever meditate when we were drinking or drugging? Probably not too much. My meditative thoughts encompassed the vintage of my bottle of wine and whether I had enough to get a good buzz. Oh sure, sometimes when suffering a debilitating hangover I would meditate on why I was such a weak person unable to control my drinking and enjoy alcohol like my non-alcoholic friends. That process usually ended with me saying, “Oh, what the hell,” as I headed to the liquor store for the next round of fortification meditating on whether it would be Colt 45 beer, Cutty Sark scotch or a few bottles of Chablis or all three.
Seriously, for most of us newly sober drunks, meditation was something only the Buddhist monks did while chanting. It was a new and foreign activity which did not come naturally. But, we tried, we practiced, and we did not give up until some results were realized. I learned to appreciate the fleeting peaceful moments and the clarity of thought following 10 minutes of meditation. I knew that something within was being manifested which I had never known before. Not sure if it was a God thing or mind manipulation, I nevertheless pursued this newly discovered tool of sobriety because it often countered the insanity and chaos filling my head.
Many years later meditation and prayer are mainstays of sobriety happening sometimes in the quiet of a darkened room, sometimes under a bright blue, sunny sky, often in a straight back chair listening to soothing music such as that of classical masters, and occasionally chanting with the Buddhist monks on YouTube. I have also done meditative walking. Now that’s a trip which can transport a person out of this universe within less than a mile of step-ping, step-ping, step-ping. For me the variety of settings prevents the repetition which can lead to boredom and mental distraction.
I am by no means an expert. However, when I learn a new habit which enhances my sense of wellness, I try to incorporate that habit into a daily routine. As with all experiences in sobriety, I pursue spiritual growth rather than perfection. When I was searching for the “proper” way to meditate, I tried to emulate those whom I saw sitting in lotus position straight-backed and legs crossed.
“Oh no”, my body said, “we cannot sit that way.”
Feet firmly on floor, sitting alert in a straight back chair, with hands opened upward in my lap is my position of choice. The position is not set in stone. Other meditative trekkers have different approaches. For me it is not the body position, the mantras or the music that matters. It is where we go, God and I, during that time of quietness and introspection. It is what God and I accomplish during that half hour of communion. How’s your good heart today?