Posts Tagged ‘Happiness’

forget what you call it

July 21st, 2010    -    43 Comments

OK friends. I am officially now part of the problem. In Zen we call this kind of talk “going into the weeds” and I caution you not to get entangled in the vines. Here are my worthless opinions on the meanings of some commonly misunderstood Buddhist terms and why I think they are so easily misjudged.

DISCLAIMER: Notice that I just used the words problem, opinion, meaning, misunderstood, why, think and misjudge at the same time. Watch your step, and don’t take my word for any of this.

Glossary of Misconceptions

Attachment – Oooh la la. We think attachment means loving devotion, as in “attached at the hip.” But sometimes that isn’t love, is it? When we’re intoxicated by romance (or just intoxicated) we might want to stay attached forever. Don’t leave me! I can’t live without you! But attachment becomes uncomfortable and confining, suffocating and debilitating. And it doesn’t only mean clinging to what we like, it also means rejecting what we don’t like. Attachments are desires and aversions that we can’t let go of; the places we get emotionally, physically and mentally stuck. Life itself never sticks. So when an attachment gets ripped from our grasp by the ebb and sway of life as it is, we hurt. Attachments are the source of our suffering and unfulfillment. Can we ever let ourselves stop hurting? Can we ever be satisfied and happy with life as it is? The dark truth is that we are often attached to our suffering. We relive it over and over in our minds and reignite familiar, painful feelings. Sometimes we’re not quite sure who we would be if we didn’t have our unfulfillment to fill us up. The funny thing is, when we drop an attachment we find out that we’ve lost nothing at all.

Non-attachment – Boo hiss! Who wants non-attachment? That sounds downright sinister and at the very least indifferent. But non-attachment isn’t inhumane, unconcerned or indifferent. It simply means that when the ebb and sway of life carries us along, we can let go because we see all of it in a different way. It doesn’t create the absence of feeling or smug disregard. It allows instead the complete acceptance of all feelings and circumstances as they are, empty and impermanent. We hurt, and then we stop hurting. We grieve, and then we stop grieving. We are free. When we truly love someone or something, we grant them freedom from our own preferences. We neither clutch nor reject. Non-attachment is the nature of life itself: it keeps going. Non-attachment allows us to love one another and life as it is regardless of whether we like it right now or not. It gives rise to trust and cultivates faith in something far greater than what we wish: life as it is. Non-attachment is selfless compassion.

Ego – Uh-oh. Now the party’s over. Who invited the deadly sins? Envy, anger, greed, pride and all the rest are sure signs of ego. Thankfully I don’t have any of those symptoms if I do say so myself! There: that’s ego too. Ego is you when you are talking to yourself. “I like this; I don’t like that. I think so; I don’t think so. I agree; I disagree.” Ego is the voice of the thinking mind, the mind that conceives, perceives, measures, judges, evaluates, picks and chooses, likes and dislikes, clutches and rejects from the standpoint of a separate “I.” There is nothing wrong with ego, or thinking. Only most of your thoughts are not pleasant, and egoism is by nature self-serving and fearful. The attachment to ego is our most pernicious attachment. Still, we do not aim to destroy ego, just suspend its driving privileges! read more

what goes around

April 3rd, 2010    -    3 Comments

If you have a moment to spare this weekend, please cycle back to the Huffington Post and catch my first blog post there: 4 Reasons Laundry Leads to Happiness (Having Clean Socks is One of Them).

For a half-hour escape, listen in on a podcast interview with me posted over at Mojo Mom. Listening to it even convinces me I’m sane! At least I’m not talking about the iPad, and that gives us all a headstart on peace and quiet.

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8 steps to happy laundering

February 21st, 2010    -    12 Comments

You might think I’m using a metaphor when I say that my spiritual practice is doing the laundry. Metaphor or not, laundry is the practice of seeing things as they are. Take a look at how to go from the hamper to happiness in eight steps.

Empty the hamper – Laundry gives us an honest encounter with ourselves before we’re freshened, fluffed and sanitized. It gives us a mirror to the parts of ourselves we’d rather overlook, and makes us take responsibility for our own messes. Self-examination reveals the pure wisdom that resides within each of us.

The instructions are in your hands – The tag inside a garment tells you exactly how to care for what you hold in your hands. Not just clothing, but very bit of life comes with instructions when we are attentive enough to notice. Doing it well may take more work than we’d like, but the effort is always worth it in the long run.

Handle with care – It’s inevitable: everything shrinks, fades and falls apart. Nothing stays brand-new. The most precious things we have are fashioned of flimsy fabric. Be mindful with each moment you have and you will experience your life in a different way. read more

300 pieces and counting

December 26th, 2009    -    9 Comments

Perhaps it was
the new game the new speakers the new camera
the boxes the manuals the cords
the plastic the paper the ribbon
the fudge the cookies the cinnamon sugar
the sour cream in the enchiladas
the tres leches
one leche alone wouldn’t do
the coffee the soda the wine
the puzzle on the coffee table
300 pieces
a pair of rat terriers under your skin
27 pieces left and I can’t quit
although I’m done
marinated, roasted and fried
so in this idle between one holiday and the next
I’m ducking out as is my custom
to quietly come undone
because every year is the same and I know it:
happiness is simple
everything we do to find it is complicated.

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Labors lost

December 22nd, 2009    -    11 Comments

“If you don’t see the Way you don’t see it even as you walk on it.” – The Identity of Relative and Absolute

In this week of returns and revelations, I’m leaving sand on your doorstep with a few repeat posts. Enjoy your time!

At the risk of shattering all illusions you might have about how a Buddhist priest is supposed to live, I will tell you that I am vacationing with my extended family on a remote, but not too remote, Pacific island. It is not too remote, considering it is the number one holiday air travel destination for Southern Californians, such Californians including D-list celebrities like the one we think we spied doing calisthenics on the stretch of lawn beside our own.

I find myself here because life, or dharma, provides in all ways visible and invisible. My family is hospitable, you see. We get along. We share. We like one another’s company. For at least a week, that is, when one particularly generous sister has sprung for a seven-day rental of a beachfront home with separate bedrooms, baths and high-speed Internet for all.

I am lucky. I am so terribly lucky, and I’ve done nothing at all to earn it. One night’s stay in a place like this and right away I realize how lucky I am. It takes several more days to realize that I don’t have to do anything to earn it. Don’t have to do anything for merit or reward. Don’t have to use the time wisely. Don’t have to busy myself producing something. Don’t have to crack open the computer and write something. Don’t have to double-back and finish up the project I left undone. Don’t have to hurry; don’t have to crack down. Don’t have to deny; don’t have to forbear. Don’t have to ponder, wish or strategize. Don’t have to be someone else, doing something other than nothing at all.

Every time I take a vacation, I confront the obvious truth in the plain sight of our language. To vacation is to vacate. Vacate my own timeline, my own agenda, my own expectations, my own grind, my own restlessness and deep-rooted exasperation. Renouncing my point of view is true renunciation. I can enjoy the hot tub without a second thought.

When I finally empty my head and open my hands I find my tongue with a native’s ease.

Aloha!

The hula could take longer.

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I hate you*

September 22nd, 2009    -    89 Comments


*and other ways to say I love you.

Today I had a: conversation/fight/tantrum/major meltdown.
The fact is, I’m having a tough time with the transition to: going back to work/daycare/no sleep/solids/no nap/the big bed/the twos/the threes/a new sibling/the layoff/the new job/kindergarten/fourth grade.
I’m just so frustrated with: naptime/potty training/bedtime/no time to myself.
I shouted/screamed/slammed the door/broke down/sobbed/made her cry.
I should have: seen it coming/stopped in my tracks/used my words/taken a break/left the room/given myself a timeout.
This is so much harder than: I thought/anyone told me/it was last year.
How can I: learn from my mistakes/do better/raise my child differently?

My friend Kris Laroche sent me a Feeleez game recently to give away on this blog. Because of all of the above, I feel happy to share it with you now.

Kris is one of the founders of Feeleez, which originated tools to teach kids what some folks call emotional intelligence.

Getting along peacefully is what we all want to do. A tool to help our children identify and talk about their feelings helps parents talk about their feelings too. Personally speaking, that has always been a more urgent need in our household, and that’s why I’m so glad to offer you this gift.

Kris was an early adopter of Momma Zen, for which I feel so grateful, and she checked in with me recently to find out how else I was feeling. Frankly, Kris, I’m feeling relieved now that I said all this, and empathize with all the moms who I know are having a rough go of it these days.

I’m giving away a beautifully crafted and packaged Feeleez Empathy Game with 25 matching pairs of Feeleez cards to help you and your children learn to recognize and express feelings in a non-confrontational way. It comes with a guide for several game ideas including memory games and charades. It’s a lovely addition to your home or classroom.

To enter, simply leave a comment telling me how you feel right now, including a way to contact you by blog or email if you win. Seriously, I feel sad when I choose a winner that I can’t contact! The giveaway ends next Monday, Sept. 28. Enter as often as you like whenever the feeling strikes.

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Peek inside my medicine chest

September 18th, 2009    -    26 Comments

It’s the time to reach for a tonic.

For fatigue: Be tired.
For impatience: Be still.
For inflammation: Chill.
For despair: Empty completely.
For fear of getting nothing done: Get nothing done.
For having no time: Take time.
For lack of love: Love.
For disappointment: Dance.
For inadequacy: Give.
For no reason: Be unreasonable.
For others, pray.

For these and all other symptoms, exhale.

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Cleverness is serviceable

August 22nd, 2009    -    15 Comments

Cleverness is serviceable for everything, sufficient for nothing – Fortune cookie

I once got a fortune cookie that said that. Not exactly. This guy said it first. I was so impressed that I kept the slip of paper in my wallet for about 20 years. Eventually I cleaned out my wallet, it might please you to know, but you can see how dear these words are to me still. Needless to say, the fortune came true. It is the truest fortune I’ve ever seen. It is the truest fortune there is. It is everyone’s fortune.

What does it mean?

Surely you know. You’re smart and clever. Perhaps too smart and clever. Cleverness works, for a time. You can look “serviceable” up in the dictionary. You can figure some stuff out. You can get better at certain things. You can acquire knowledge and skills. You can work harder and longer. Figure out Twitter. Get a leg up on the next thing. You can do more, be better liked, with a bigger reputation. You can set a goal and maybe even reach it. And then another. And another.

But is it ever sufficient?

As long as you are in the realm of cleverness, it is not sufficient. By that I mean, as long as you are in the realm of judging yourself and your life as being one way or the other (good/no good, full/empty, success/fail, made/not made) it is not sufficient. How do you know? Because you will still feel insufficient. You will still feel as though there is something more, better, greater and more fulfilling for you to get. At the same time, it will seem as though there are a few charmed folks on the other side of the scale who already “got” it. But I promise you, whatever it looks like they “got,” they didn’t “get” nearly enough.

You can acquire many things through cleverness, but sufficiency is not one of them.

That being said, cleverness is serviceable for something truly wonderful and life altering. Cleverness will bring you to the last gasp of cleverness; to the end of judgment, greed and envy; to the brink of chronic dissatisfaction and despair. It will bring you to the starting point for sufficiency. A chance to be content with things as they are, the fortune you already possess, the potential for deep and radiating joy, and a life that goes far beyond anything you can engineer.

How do I know? It brought you here.

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A squirt in the eye

July 2nd, 2009    -    20 Comments


When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Summer’s thirst has stirred this saying to mind, and I find it squirts me right in the eye.

What’s wrong with a lemon being a lemon, I wonder, and lemonade standing alone? Each is perfect as it is, with its own time and purpose. The refrain points out again just how much we value one thing over another: choosing the sweet over the sour, concocting a so-called positive out of the perceived negative, manufacturing candy to camouflage life’s authentic and irreplaceable flavor. Candy only gets you so far, and so does conventional wisdom like this.

When life gives you lemons, let the lemons be. Sour has a sweetness all its own, and a season, like all seasons, that doesn’t last.

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Quit happiness and be happy

June 15th, 2009    -    5 Comments


Happiness is my new pet peeve. Just the idea of it makes me cranky.

We’re suddenly steeped in happy talk. Research and theories, projects and workshops, books and blogs on nothing but happiness and how to find it. Happiness is a new industry. I guess every industry is a happiness industry, and all pursuits are pursuits of happiness.

The other day I googled “ways to be happy” and the articles on just the first page of results enumerated 129 ways to be happy. If someone had the free time to look up and do those things you’d think they’d be plenty happy already. Yet even with all the advice, a lot of us say we are less happy. That really ticks me off.

Read the rest and leave a cranky comment on my latest post on “The Laundry Line”

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5 reasons to stay calm in turbulent times

February 13th, 2009    -    6 Comments


It’s that time of the month. No, I don’t mean that time of the month. It’s the time of the month when the savings statements come. I hate to even get them, let alone bring them in from the mailbox, and when I do, I toss them aside hoping they will get lost, which is what we all probably do in these times, that is if we still have these times.

Eventually I compel myself to open them. I actually put it on my to-do list, “3. Open envelopes” and then one day, like today, I open them.

It’s a good practice, really, for facing life as it is. It’s just not a practice that I would pay this much money for.

So opening up the envelope where a certain bank tells me that I spent $50,000 of my IRA last year learning to face life as it is, out comes a glossy newsletter bearing the headline, “Five Reasons to Stay Calm During Turbulent Times.”

I don’t buy their reasons anymore, just like to don’t buy anything anymore, but there really are Five Reasons to Stay Calm During Turbulent Times, and this is what they are:

1. You don’t need a college fund. Your kids won’t even want to go to college. Because there won’t even be colleges. There won’t even be jobs. There will just be the Facebook 25 Things About Me meme. And everyone will be famous.

2. You don’t need to eat. It’s not good for you. Researchers have proven that a starvation diet is the best and only way to extend your lifespan, and the time to start is now, so you can look forward to being hungry forever.

3. Money is overrated. Indeed it is worthless. Money doesn’t buy happiness. Now are you happy?

4. You can’t take it with you. You can’t even go anywhere. Don’t believe those ads for low airfares. Click on them and you’ll find out it still costs $600 for a round-trip ticket to a place you don’t even want to go. Like your in-laws. So just stay put and start starving and be happy.

5. You don’t even have a time of the month anymore. What turbulence?

Cut to the heart of it

November 25th, 2008    -    10 Comments


So we cut out our Sunday subscription to the New York Times. We are loyal readers, but we can’t afford any more of this news.

We cut out our weekly personal training. Giving ourselves a swift kick in the butt.

We cut out our support of the conservation voter’s league. A cruel end after a tireless fight.

We cut out our daughter’s studio art class. Until the paint dries on the ugly mess we’re in.

We cut out our online subscription to the Wall Street Journal. We’ve long since stopped gagging on it, but wouldn’t you know they were double charging us?!

I was overruled in my attempt to cut out satellite TV. Some channels never change.

We quietly removed the Obama-Biden valedictory sign from our front yard. To usher in a bold and brave new day in this bountiful country we love and share.

Happy Thanksgiving.
Happy day after.
Happy every day after.

The fall of the smart house

October 8th, 2008    -    20 Comments

Could be a metaphor for our economic collapse, and it is, but it’s not.

By my bleary reckoning, it might have been 4 a.m. when Georgia got out of bed, walked across the darkness, said “I don’t feel well,” and threw up on the white wool carpet in my sister’s tony new townhouse.

It was a stunning flood of Mexican beans and rice and milk, a regurgitation that transfixed a mother into the gripping awareness that the day to come wouldn’t be going her way. At 9 a.m. my daughter and I would be boarding an airplane for a flight from Houston to LA. This was a new one for me: traveling with a five-year-old through the turbulence of stomach flu.

Incoming!

She spit up at steady intervals, giving my lame hope of a less paralyzing diagnosis no time to coagulate. It was the crowning blow to what had been a triumphant return to my old hometown.

I’d been hired to do two days of media training for the wealth management division of a regional bank. Damn I’m good! I’d brought Georgia along to visit old friends and family. I can do it all! On the eve of leaving, we’d gone out for a Houston twofer: Tex-Mex and margaritas. Life is sweet, with salt on the rim!

I was satisfied that I still had it. (The business thing.) I’d figured it out. (The mommy thing.) I was a sassy smartass at the top of my game.

Two hours later, I hunched over the wheel of my rental car heading up the interstate, one eye on the rear view mirror watching Georgia double over into a plastic Target shopping bag. My baby would have to fly 2,000 miles with her face in that bag. What else could I do? I’d never done this. I’d never been in this bind. I knew nothing. For all my bravura, the smug congratulation of the night before, we were starting all over again. Day 1.

About then I realized: It’s always Day 1, you dummy.

I begged and consoled, consoled and begged. “If you make it home I’ll buy you a Barbie Smart House,” I said, kissing her sweaty neck, shielding her convulsions in the window seat.

This was a mommy Hail Mary. The Barbie Happy Family Smart House was an $80 obscenity, just the latest in an onslaught of overpriced molded plastic monstrosities that possessed my daughter, still immersed in her all-Barbie, all-day play stage. I’d refused it a dozen times over. Drawn a line in the sand. But now I reached for it like a miracle cure.

It worked. By the time we made it home, she was sipping Sprite and bubbling with nothing but anticipation. I was so grateful and proud and humbled. It had become the happiest day of our lives.

***

I’ve wised up so I’m not running the Chicago Marathon this Sunday. My former running partner and I are staging a marathon of another kind, a garage sale. No, it won’t be worth it, but this time the Smart House is going.

It’s Day 1 all over again. The happiest day of our lives.

***
And what’s this? See if you’re a quack happy winner of our latest giveaway here.

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