True Compassion

Deep down within ourselves we possess a loving-kindness that we oppress. We seek to insulate ourselves from the world that surrounds us. Other people and their difficulties rob us of our self-importance that parades itself as “joy”. We hide within ourselves and our own ego, an ivory tower of security, but therein lies pain and loneliness.

“Look out for number one.”
“She is just crazy.”
“That bum is an addict. He deserves to be homeless.”
“I don’t want to think about it; it’s too depressing.”
“What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you just be happy?”
“Something is wrong with me, I’m always sad.”

These are things that I have said before, callous, unkind, and foolish.

True compassion lies in deep kinship. When we remove the boundaries that separate us, and we get down in the muck of another’s addictions, depression, and pains, when we experience these things with our fellow humans and suffer with them: that is true compassion. Eliminating our egos and the selfishness of “me” allows us to understand deeply and to love deeply.

I recently made friends with a beautifully compassionate person who was dealing with a great deal of depression and anxiety. One thing after another kept going wrong. As she bore her heart out to me, I felt sad. I do not pity my friend, rather I thought of similar experiences I had endured and recalled the gut-wrenching pain. We hurt together. She was sharing some of her poetry with me, and it was quite expressive of her passions for social justice, equality, and the pain she is enduring.

“You don’t want to hear this one, it’s too depressing.”

I did, and I will wade through these murky waters with her.

Memorial

 As I see patriotic posts, lots of red, white, and blue, this morning, I reflect on the events 14 years ago and remember the pain and fear we all endured at the wanton loss of life in New York City. I then recall the many lives lost during the quagmire of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and I attempted to research how many have died, but have had difficulty finding consistent estimates.

Violence begets only more violence. How many lives, families, and communities have been decimated by humanity’s lack of empathy and understanding? It is difficult to document, but most sources say at least 250,000. I think about my family, friends, my sangha, my coworkers and how many they number. My world is probably not more than 300 people: just a drop in that bucket of that quarter million. I am overwhelmed by the social injustice surrounding me.Looking back on 9/11 I mourn the loss of all life, not just Americans, that happened that day and thereafter, because anger won.

These acts of violence carry an important lesson: we must let go of our anger and fear. Vengeance only leads to more suffering.

Namandabu

  

Buddhism: Moving on from Unhappiness

DharmaChakra

“Overcome your uncertainties and free yourself from the dwelling of sorrow.  If you delight in existence, you will become a guide to those who need you, revealing the path to many.”

From the Sutta Nipatta

The Buddha teaches us in the Four Noble Truths that life is dukkha, suffering.  The cause of dukkha is our unfulfilled desires & ambition and clinging to everything which is impermanent.  This passage highlights the importance of dropping the dukkha in our lives and moving on by “freeing ourselves from the dwelling of sorrow.”  I find the comparison of our sorrow or dukkha to a dwelling quite apropos.

In the past ten years, I have moved only three times, but each time, I’ve found the whole process to be stressful: finding a new place to live, packing up my belongings, and moving them, and then getting used to a new location, new room mates, and new sets of circumstances.  For many of us, transition is difficult.  Even if we would be much better off in a better space.  At one of my previous residences, we had a rodent problem, and though it was annoying, I was fairly satisfied living there rather than moving to a new house.  When I did move, however, and I took the effort to move to a better location, I was much happier.

The analogy of moving on, of dropping our dukkha dwellings is a poignant reminder of how difficult it is to deal with suffering in life, but the Buddha gives us a systematic approach to finding happiness in our everyday existence through the Eightfold Noble path:

Right View

Right Thought

Right Speech

Right Conduct

Right Livelihood

Right Effort

Right Mindfulness

Right Meditation

The truth is that happiness is already here waiting for us to discover it: existence itself is something over which we should delight. If we examine our birth into the world and the probability of the string of events occurring exactly as they have, our very existence as it stands is nigh miraculous. We are a part of an intricately woven chain, and happiness surrounds us. The Eightfold Noble path is a more descript path to happiness, and is a wonderful guide post, and a way for us to share happiness with others through our behavior.

Change must ultimately come from within, and by living an inspirational life of happiness, we can lead others to a content existence. This inspirational leadership is what truly speaks to me as a Buddhist; so often times we find ourselves in situations where we are being coerced, where someone thinks they can inflict change upon us, but change, true growth, is something we must desire fore ourselves. When we see happiness and contentment in others, oftentimes we seek that happiness from them.

Namo Amida Butsu

Signature.jpg

Metabolism, Diet, and Body Weight

Though this might be a bit of a tough topic for my first post, I’m going to try to tackle metabolism head-on, because it’s something about which I am quite passionate. Unfortunately, there are a lot of fads, fasts, diets, and cleanses that saturate the fitness market- unfortunate because to successfully utilize these tools, we must really know how they affect our bodies. Put simply and excluding units, weight loss is a matter of an easy equation: 

(Intake Calories) – (Output Calories) = Net Weight Gain or Loss 

If we apply this formula to our diets every day (with a lot of self-control), we can achieve our goals! In actuality, this process of weight loss isn’t as easy as that (even if you have unbelievable self-control). As animals, our bodies are fine-tuned, miraculous machines that are able to make adjustments to how they function based on their environment (that includes our diets and activity levels). We might think that having a daily 500 calorie deficit is the best way to approach weight-loss: that’s something like 25% of our average daily calorie allowance, so in a month, we could finally get rid of that pesky 10 lbs. In actuality, having such a large deficit would allow us to lose weight, but depending on our activity levels and macronutrient intake (protein, carbohydrates, and fats- I’ll touch on these in a later post), we could be doing some major damage to our metabolism and to our muscles! After a week of such a big caloric deficit, our metabolism will start to slow down. Our bodies will burn off some fat, but protein is much easier for our bodies to convert into energy, so the areas we really want to minimize: stomach, love handles, thighs, etc. aren’t changing as much as we would like. As our bodies burn muscle for energy, and our metabolism slows due to the decreased muscle mass. We burn calories by using our muscles, and when there is less muscle to work, we burn fewer calories. So we have this horrible feedback loop of reducing our resting metabolic rate when we have a huge calorie deficit. Ultimately, my point is that, creating large caloric deficits like those popular in cleanses, fasts, or extreme diets is not good for you, and in the long run, will create road blocks to achieving fitness goals. At the same time, if a cleanse or a fast helps to jump start your getting into fitness, then go for it! Just make sure that you do these, just like everything else, in moderation. Getting fit, being healthy, and improving our lives involves overcoming bad habits and creating new ones- a huge part of it exists in our minds. Most importantly, be mindful of your body. If something hurts don’t do it. Most importantly, examine exercise routines and diets with a critical eye, and ask QUALIFIED friends (CPT’s, licensed nutritionists, etc.) for advice if you aren’t sure. Don’t just take marketing or the opinions of spokespeople as science. There are a lot of companies out there that know just how desperate for instant gratification humans are!

Until next time! Signature.jpg