New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. –Martin Luther King, Jr.
Reshared post from +Jim Weiler
Hot damn.. If you watch, you must hold out until the end (or at least skip ahead). The 75min time-lapse is just… wow..
A Hunk Of Planet Dissolves Before Our Eyes
Bye-bye white. Hello bigger (and bigger) blue.
– Tea Party Nation president Judson Phillips
"The Tom Perkins system is: You don't get to vote unless you pay a dollar of taxes… But what I really think is, it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars, you get a million votes."
– Silicon Valley entrepreneur Tom Perkins?
Buddhism talks a lot about suffering, but a lot of us think that we don’t suffer, or that we don’t really suffer. There’s a tendency for us to think of suffering in terms of physical pain or material deprivation: the person with terminal cancer or a broken leg, the refugee, the starving child. So we often think of suffering as being something that’s extreme or unusual. But actually, we all suffer, every day. You may be suffering right now.
- When you’re worrying what people think about you, you’re suffering.
- When you feel resentful, you’re suffering.
- When you’re impatient, you’re suffering.
- When you’re embarrassed, you’re suffering.
- When you’re irritated, you’re suffering.
- When you’re feeling sad, you’re suffering.
- When you have regrets, you’re suffering.
- When you’re jealous, you’re suffering.
- When you’re bored, you’re suffering.
If you look closely at your mental states over the course of any given day, you’ll probably notice that you spend a lot of time dipping in and out of suffering of one sort of another.
And if you look at the people around you, it’s a fair bet that half of them are suffering at any given time. Just notice: how many of them are showing signs of being happy?
I think one reason we deny our own suffering is because we think of suffering as a sign of “failure.” After all, we’re meant to be happy all the time, or so certain messages we receive from society tell us. But if we don’t acknowledge suffering — even our minor experiences of suffering — then we can’t do anything about it, and will continue to go about life in a sub-optimal emotional state.
So I suggest that we notice experiences of suffering, and we accept the fact of our own suffering. There’s no point fretting about the fact that we suffer; it’s not a sign of failure. It’s just a part of the experience of being human, and a fact to be acknowledged. And once we’ve acknowledged and accepted our suffering, we can start to do something about it. In particular, I suggest wishing our suffering well. Drop lovingkindness phrases into your mind — “May you be well; may you be happy; may you be free from suffering.” Just notice your suffering, give it your compassion. Love your suffering, and see what happens. You might find that once you’ve given compassion to your own pain, it’s natural to notice the suffering around you, and to respond compassionately to others.
Up to 40 kids at Uintah Elementary picked up their lunches Tuesday, then watched as the meals were taken and thrown away because of outstanding balances on their accounts — a move that shocked and angered parents.?
Lunches seized from kids in debt at Salt Lake City elementary
Up to 40 kids at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City picked up their lunches Tuesday, then watched as the meals were taken and thrown away because of outstanding balances on their accounts — a move that shocked and angered parents. “It was pretty traumatic and humiliating,” said Erica Lukes, whose 11-year-old daughter had her cafeteria lunch taken from her as she stood in line Tuesday at Uintah Elementary School, …
The Older Mind May Just Be a Fuller Mind
It’s not so much that the mental faculties of older people are rapidly declining, it’s that their databases are fuller, a new study suggests.
Greg Kretschmar Photography
Welcome to my photography page. I had many requests to make my photos available to the public, so here we are! Hope you enjoy the photos, and I would consider it an honor if one of them found a place in our home or office. Thanks for dropping by! – Greg. Hello!
Thanks for checking out my photography page! Some of you may know me from my day job, hosting the radio show “Greg and The Morning Buzz” on WHEB-WGIR-WMXR-WLKZ. If you do, great! If not…
Lots of people struggle with self-hatred. They find they constantly judge themselves, talk to themselves harshly, and even do things to themselves that are harmful. It’s very painful to be this way.
But I want to tell you: you don’t really hate yourself.
In the deepest core of your being you love yourself. In the deepest core of your being you want everything for yourself that you want for those you hold most dear. In the deepest core of your being you want to be happy, to be well, and to be at peace.
And everything you do — everything — is a strategic attempt to find happiness, wellness, and peace. That’s the motivation behind every action you take, including your acts of self-hatred.
If you hate someone else, your motivation is usually something like this: by being unpleasant to them they’ll go away and not bother you any more, and then you’ll be at peace, and you can get on with being happy. Or they’ll stop doing that thing that annoys you, and then you can go back to being happy.
Those motivations of ours aren’t usually very conscious, because conscious self-examination is a relatively recent arrival in our being, evolutionarily speaking, and so many of our strategies are not clearly thought out, but are automatic and habitual. And so we often use strategies that just don’t work. The person you’re unpleasant to often can’t or won’t go away. They may be unpleasant back at you. And so your strategy to find peace and happiness ends up destroying your peace and your happiness even further.
If you hate some aspect of yourself, then usually the motivation is similar to those above. Maybe you messed up: “Oh god, what an idiot I am!” you yell at yourself, in the privacy of your own head. You treat yourself like a child who needs to be punished so that it won’t repeat an error. You do something good but you tell yourself it wasn’t “good enough.” If you can just be unpleasant enough to yourself, then maybe you’ll stop making mistakes. You’ll do better. Then you’ll be happy.
This is also a strategy that doesn’t work. You can’t find happiness through being harsh on yourself. You can’t create a sense of inner peace through setting up a conflict with yourself. But we get stuck with our failed strategies of self-hating behaviors — repeating them over and over. Hating yourself didn’t work that time? Try a bit harder at hating yourself next time!
But the key thing is that self-hatred is a strategy. And it’s a strategy for meeting a deeper desire for well-being, peace, and happiness. And that deeper desire for well-being, peace, and happiness is the love you have for yourself.
Self-hatred is self-love gone wrong. Self-hatred is your natural desire for happiness expressing itself in a strategy that can never work.
This is, I hope, encouraging. Because it’s not you, in your core, that’s the problem. It’s your strategies. And you can change your strategies. Strategies, in the great scheme of things, are relatively superficial. When you mess up, you can learn accept that you messed up without recrimination. You can learn that you don’t need to be harsh on yourself to prevent yourself making mistakes. You can learn, as animal trainers well know, that rewards are more important motivators than punishments like harsh self-talk. You can learn to be kind to yourself. You can practice lovingkindness, and learn the arts of being patient, accepting, and kind toward yourself. You can learn to be compassionate to yourself when you’re suffering.
It’s not necessarily easy to do all this. In fact it’s not easy. It even can be very painful in the short-term (we’ll often give ourselves a hard time for giving ourselves a hard time), although in the long-term learning to be kind to ourselves brings great happiness. You can expect a bumpy ride at first. But the only thing more painful than learning new strategies for finding happiness is to keep going with strategies that never have worked and never can.
I received a lovely message today from someone who’s participating in Wildmind’s 28 Day Meditation Challenge. (It’s too late to join the current one, but we have others running later in the year.)
It’s a great example of how a simple phrase can change your whole attitude to meditation, and radically alter your sense of self and your life. (I’ve removed a few identifying details.)
I have been meditating in a more focused way for nearly a year, after 30 years of playing with the idea. I thought I would let you know that my ‘full turning point’ has happened as a result of this 28 day challenge.
Finding the time always seemed to be the challenge. Making the decision to turn this around using your Mantra “I meditate every day; it’s just what I do; it’s who I am” has put meditation right in the centre of my life. I sometimes only meditate for 5 minutes but have begun to feel like I used to feel when I was younger and needed to go for a run. My body and mind actually remind me that they feel like meditating each day now.
So to fit this in with my busy schedule I am now not only meditating at home on my mat and stool, but I do walking meditation to and from work, sometimes stop and sit on a park bench on the way home or a sand dune when out walking with friends, even if its for only 5 or 10 mins, rather than miss a day. My shyness over the last 30 years and reluctance to tell friends who I really am has evolved in to their complete comfortable acceptance of it. They see it as ‘who I am’ and all say that they see a real change in my demeanor and health too.
The most important thing is that I now see meditation as just ‘what I do … every day’ and am happy because of that.
Many thanks for your encouragement and support in this.
“I meditate every day; it’s just what I do; it’s part of who I am” is an affirmation that appeared in my mind when I was considering how to move from being an “almost daily” meditator to a rock-solid daily meditator. These phrases help us to change our view of ourselves so that we no longer have to make a choice to meditate every day. With enough repetition of these phrases, you no longer need willpower in order to keep your practice daily, any more than you need willpower to brush your teeth. It just becomes something you do.
Do Buddhists pray? It certainly looks like it sometimes.
Since Buddhism has no creator God you might assume that the Buddhist tradition has no room for prayer. The Buddha wasn’t a God. So would be the point of praying to him, or of praying at all?
Some forms of Buddhist practice that look like prayer don’t in fact involve the Buddha or any other enlightened figure. When Buddhists are cultivating lovingkindness and they’re repeating phrases like “May all beings be well; May all beings be happy,” they’re not invoking any kind of outside agency. What they’re doing is strengthening their own desire to see beings flourish and be free from suffering. By repeating the thought, and the intention, “May all beings be well; May all beings be happy,” they’re exercising and strengthening the faculty of kindness. So while this may resemble prayer, there isn’t really any petition (asking a deity for benefits) going on.
But depending on what kind of Buddhism you’re looking at, you’ll also see practitioners asking to be reborn in a Pure Land paradise after death, or using mantras to call repetitively on the name of a Buddha or Bodhisattva figure, or even asking one of them for a favor, or giving thanks for a blessing. And Tibetan Buddhism uses prayer flags and prayer wheels. What are all those about?
When Pure Land Buddhists call upon the saving grace of Amida Buddha in the hope of being reborn in his paradise after death, they’re doing something that to all intents and purposes is a form of prayer. For example here’s one Pure Land prayer: “I single-mindedly take refuge in Amit?bha Buddha in the World of Ultimate Bliss. Illuminate me with Your pure light and draw me in with Your loving, kind vows! Thinking only of You, I now call the name of the Tath?gata. For the sake of the Bodhi Way, I supplicate to be reborn in Your Pure Land.”
This isn’t the form of Buddhism I practice, and it doesn’t particularly appeal to me, but it’s not something I want to dismiss or be condescending about, Although it’s tempting for westerners to see these beliefs and practices as superstitious or naive, there is in fact a well-developed “theology” based around Pure Land practice, and it’s based on meditations that the Buddha himself encouraged: namely, Buddh?nusati, or “Recollection of the Buddha.” In Buddh?nusati we reflect on the qualities of the Buddha, and in doing so we develop an affinity with those qualities, and with enlightenment. And so Buddh?nusati helps us move toward becoming enlightened ourselves.
Reciting mantras is a very similar practice. When you hear a Buddhist reciting Om Manipadme Hum, what they’re actually doing is repeating the name of the Bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokiteshvara. One of this figure’s other names was Manipadma (The Lotus-Jewel One). This kind of mantra practice can be very effective even if you don’t believe Avalokiteshvara exists. Mantra works to a large extent by giving the mind a rest from the incessant angry, grasping, and anxious thoughts that plague us in our daily lives. When you’re reciting a mantra you just aren’t able to keep up a negative inner monologue the way you normally might. And again the mantra is a form of Buddh?nusati, and can help us to call to mind the qualities of a compassionate presence, and help those qualities manifest in our own minds.
But it’s clear from Tibetan teachings on devotional practice that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are not separate from the nature of our own minds. It’s only a slight simplification to say that when you pray to Avalokiteshvara, you are invoking the power of your own potential awakened mind.
Prayer flags and prayer wheels fall somewhere in between lovingkindness practice and mantra. In fact prayer flags and prayer wheels are really “mantra flags” and “mantra wheels,” for the most part, since mantras are prominent on both forms of device. Tibetans believe that as prayer flags flap in the wind, or as a prayer wheel is spun, the blessings of the mantras will spread out on the wind and have a beneficial effect on all beings. Prayer flags and prayer wheels are a kind of “prayer technology.”
It’s hard to say how many westerners believe that prayer flags and prayer wheels work in this way. My guess is that only a small percentage does, and that for most of us prayer flags are a form of spiritual decoration, with mostly symbolic value.
With these various forms of practice going on within Buddhism, it would be hard to claim that there is no prayer in Buddhism. It is possible to point to differences between Buddhist prayer and the prayer of the mainstream theistic traditions, but the similarities are much stronger than the differences.
Nevertheless, sometimes people feel the need to pray, even though prayer strikes them as being a bit silly. My own teacher, when asked about this, advised, “If you feel like praying, then pray, and worry about the theology afterwards.” That’s wise advice.