A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Archive for the tag “depression”

The time is now..

Todays post is a result of seeing a friend for the first time the other day, since before Christmas. He has lost about 25 lbs in that time, and been in the hospital, where he has been told to prepare to die within the next few months. Mel is still walking around smiling, seeing those friends he can, while he waits a transfer to a hospice. I have spent some time talking to him, and while he talks about the past including things he wishes had gone differently, he isn’t stuck on the past. Rather he has the attitude, of what can I get done today? He has gone out and tried some ethnic foods, that he never tasted before. He saw the Hobbit in 3D, just so he could experience the new 3D, as the last time was many years ago when you got the disposable anaglyph glasses, with the two different colored lenses. He is getting his will finalized, and contacting those he wishes to see once more. He has accepted death, and now wants to make the most of what life he has left. I asked him what he would tell anyone who wasn’t living under a known shorter lifespan. He answered with four words; “Live in the present!” So in honor of his advice, I will write something about living in the present.

If you are depressed you are living in the past.

If you are anxious you are living in the future.

If you are at peace you are living in the present.

Laozi (Lao Tzu) wrote these words almost 2400 years ago, and they still have just a much meaning today as when he said them. How often do we spend time reminiscing about what ifs? If we had done, this or not done that, all the while it is those choices that have made us who we are today. If you spend all your time working towards a raise, getting that bigger house, what will you miss? My parents were both working while I grew up, yet they made sure at least one of them was always at my special events, games, school functions. They did their best to see they both had the opportunity to be at these functions.

If your a student who waits till the last minute to write the paper, or study for the exam, you probably suffer from anxiety. Perhaps learning to schedule some study time on a daily basis, would allow you to study in the present, and avoid the anxiety of the future. If your working, and find your mornings rushed, choose your wardrobe the night before, make your lunch in advance(it’s healthier than most restaurant meals), and leave a few minutes earlier, the traffic won’t drive you crazy as easily. Also worrying constantly about things beyond our control, robs us of the wonderous gifts we have right now. Worrying about the day when you daughter first starts to date, when she hasn’t finished being potty trained, will probably lead to a bigger mess, than if you put all your attention to changing her diaper. The present is when we can carry out things, so why not make the most of each moment.

The Buddha taught us, we are to be mindful of our thoughts, speech, and actions and to live in the present. The more we are in the present, the more we are aware of what we say and do that affects other beings. By being mindful, we eliminate more incidents that cause suffering to others, and ourselves. So when your reading the blog, do so with all your attention, not thinking of what’s for lunch, or wondering what’s on sale at the midnight sale. When spending time with your family or friends, give them you full attention, and if you find your mind wandering, draw it back to the present. If you have children, or are planning on it, memories such as their first word, first step, first time they ride a bike with out training wheels, or someone holding the back of the bike seat, are memories that only happen once. Talking to your spouse, actually listen, and as a lady once told me, they don’t expect us guys to fix everything, sometimes all they want is for us to listen, to know we are there with them, right then and there.

In the military or in business, it’s not about having all the information to make a decision. It’s about having enough facts to make an informed decision, then actually making the decision that makes you a leader. The same applies to our daily lives, whether it’s buying a new cell phone, or what color to paint the kitchen walls, these don’t require as much thought as who we will marry. So don’t spend all your time today thinking, you get a lot more done just doing. If you get into getting things done, you might even find some time to take a few hings off your bucket list, while you still have time. If you make a mistake on occasion, don’t waste more time beating yourself up over it, just fix it and move on. Wasting time berating yourself, means you are compounding the original mistake.There is a saying that time and money are two things that should not be wasted.

So live in the moment, and you will be less stressed, and have more happy memories, and those around you will enjoy your companionship more too.

Lighten Up

For most of us, we are so busy trying to be perfect at home, at work and in our relationships, we actually end up doing worse than if we just lightened up, and took things with a grain of salt.

We have all had images portrayed to us from the stories we heard as children, to the lessons we learned in school. Later it was our peer groups in school, as we tried to be in the most prestigious group of kids. In University we assumed that certain courses of study required us to behave a certain way, Drama and arts students were the fun ones, Engineering students were the pranksters and jokers, the jocks, well we all know what they thought about 24/7, scoring. Then when we start work, we are given the talk about the corporate culture, with the sometimes not so subtle hint, that you must fit in. So by the time we are in our mid 20’s we have had expectations, peer pressure, guilt trips, anger jealousy and temptations dumped on us. No wonder we are walking wrecks, quivering with psychosis, and self flagellation.

Yet we are but one thought away from ending this situation. We don’t have to wait till this happens or that is finished. You can start working on achieving enlightenment, right now. Would you like to know the secret word, that unlocks the gate? Acceptance, and it starts with yourself. Here is a little exercise you can perform at home; look into a mirror, now close your eyes, and when you open them just look at your reflection. Who do you see looking back at you? Is it an angry young man, perhaps a depressed divorcee, or someone in their golden years. You may see a poverty stricken person struggling to get by. All these are ok, as they will be your motivation to become a better person, and awaken your compassion, starting with yourself, and spreading to others. Mention the word compassion to most people and ask them to define it, almost all will phrase it as doing something good towards someone else. Yet how many of us have found an excuse not to be there for our parents, our spouse, even our children. Until we are there for ourselves, we will find it easier to just run away, to escape, to avoid becoming involved. When we do this, we are not waiting for a better opportunity, we are avoiding being in the here and now. We just have this one chance at now, and then it is gone, never to be repeated, never to be corrected. The moment we are experiencing right now has a few qualities, it’s fresh, it’s unique and it’s precious. It is to be savored like a single bite of your favorite desert, to be as refreshing as that first drink of fresh water, after a hard day’s work,

So start with accepting yourself, the one you see in the mirror. Embrace you flaws, your aches and pains, for they are your armor in the battles you will face. The more you embrace yourself, as you really are, the more you will have the strength to tackle the pain you see in others. Tomorrow we’ll start learning some techniques, to help you. For now, just tug off superman’s cape, and just be yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror, and think about all those things about yourself, that have bothered you, make a list, then accept that this is you, right now. Over the next few days you will change, it’s time you decided how you will change, instead of letting others choose.

“Be like the Buddha

Conquer yourself and live a proper life.

Have nothing and live in freedom.

Once you have done this,

Where will you find a teacher.”

Buddhist Wisdom, Daily Reflections by David Crosweller p161

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