Use your thoughts for good and not evil

I saw this great post on FB this week, and it hit home for me, because it’s something I really believe in.Ordinary things

I think part of it is due to my mindfulness practice (which encourages noticing all the small things), but maybe more because I’ve found that it’s doing this that brings real happiness.

My belief is that you should have lots of things in your life that make you happy – all the small moments combined should bring you a sense of gratitude and satisfaction. And if they don’t then it’s probably time to look at why, and what you can do to change it.

Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows – actually from my experience it’s usually the opposite – but if you can focus on the small things that you love then it balances it all out.

For me personally the things that have made me happy this week are:

  • Going to the shops as a family and buying beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables for the week.  I’ve found a great fruit shop that sells the most beautiful fruit – it’s always such fantastic quality.  And things like that give me so much happiness.  I adore my fruit and vegetables and knowing I have a fridge full of the loveliest produce makes me really happy.
  • Nourishing my soul with classical music.  I work from home, so I have the freedom to listen to whatever I like to during the day.  And lately I’ve been listening to cello music.  It’s something Mr ISFS and I both have a passion for.  I just love having it on in the background as I work.
  • Books.  I’ve always been a huge bookworm since I could read.  Sometimes I find I get too busy with other things to read much, but it’s always such a joy to go back to it.  On Thursday during lunch I sat with my feet up, a cup of tea, my cello music playing, and a new book to read, and it was (to me) the idea of perfection.
  • Sharing my favourite takeout (noodles) with Mr ISFS.  This is something that we have always done – shared our favourite takeout together at least once a month.  We are trying to save for a house, so we are mostly budgeting very carefully, but once a month we splurge and get all our favourites – Kway Teow, Garlic Prawns, Special Fried Rice, and spring rolls.

and lastly

  • 12599343_960538727371424_1772379474_n(1)Valentine’s Day.  Today has a heightened meaning for me today, and it’s been a chance to realise how truly blessed I am.  I bought Mr ISFS a 1st edition copy of DeadPool (the comic), and he bought me a pair of amethyst earrings.  They have such special meaning for me as he picked them specially as they are my birthstone, and he knows how much I love them.  But the gifts are really only a very minor part of the day – the day is a reaffirmation for me of how much I love the life we have built together, and how much it means to me.

I am struggling with some personal issues at the moment (health related), but it’s focusing on these small things that makes my life full, and I realise how truly blessed I am.

Much love,
Meg

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Mindfulness of mindfulness

This week for me I’ve had a very strong focus on mindfulness.

I had been reading a blog post which talked about another blog post, which talked about a great podcast, which was based on a book (which I then had to buy).  And so it goes.  (Oh how I love technology ♥).

So the book I am currently reading is this one:

Mindfulness

With reading this book I’ve been thinking a lot about mindfulness, and I’ve been trying to be more aware of it in my daily life.

And I am noticing many more small moments.  This morning I was making a cup of tea, and I was accurately aware of the sound of the boiling water being poured into the cup.  And I was AWARE that I was aware.  Then I was aware of the silence around me (it was dawn and the rest of my household was asleep).  It was a small moment of clarity, but it was so beautiful.

I then decided to do my jigsaw puzzle while I drank my tea, and listen to a talk about mindfulness tools in daily life.

And a funny thing happened.

I was listening to the tools that the dharma teacher was suggesting (which were great!).  And I was thinking how I could apply them in my daily life.  And then I had a lightbulb moment.

Why?

I was reading this book on mindfulness, listening to a mindfulness podcast.  Trying to incorporate it in my daily life.

But why?  Why practice mindfulness?

To me it was my own ‘mindful’ moment.  I was spending all this energy and focus on becoming mindful.  But I then realised I didn’t know why I was doing it.

My curiosity was piqued then, so I did more reading on why practice it at all.

But for me personally…. I hope that my mindfulness helps me to help others.  My goal and focus has long been to provide support and kindness to others.  And now my intention is that my mindfulness practice helps me to become a better listener, more in-tune with those around me and their hearts, and more in-tune with my own heart.

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The value in sincerity

I was inspired by something I heard this week.

I was listening to another Gil Fronsdal dharma talk, and he related a story from the Zen tradition.

A student asked his teacher “If I practice Zen will I become enlightened?”.  And the Zen teacher replied “If your practice is sincere, it is almost as good”.

I was incredibly inspired by this simple concept.

I know myself that I practice Buddhism because I identify with the precepts very strongly.  However I do not hold the belief that I will become enlightened – I would imagine very few Buddhist practitioners ever will become enlightened.

However I can practice with sincerity.  We all can.

And it doesn’t have to relate to Buddhist practice – we can live our lives with sincerity full stop.

I love that thought so much.

Sincerity encompasses so many things – living ethically, honestly and with pure intention.  And all of those things make such a difference not only to our lives, but to the lives of those that we touch.

You can’t really put a value on sincerity and honesty.

So this week I’ve tried to really keep that as my intention.

Also in this past week I heard a discussion on the Buddha – how before he became enlightened he had to live through many lives, and learn from each one.  He was reborn many times.  And of all the lives he lead, and the mistakes he made (as a lay person) one thing he never did was lie.  And specifically he did not lie to himself.

It’s a deep concept – to never lie to ourselves.

It’s also been on my mind this week, and I have given a lot of reflection on the ways I have lied to myself in the past.

There are so many great things that can be gained from self analysis and knowledge.  I feel blessed to have access to the dharma teachings.

And a new day each day to learn from them.

Namaste,

Meg

 

First do no harm

This week I am concentrating on the “Right Action” step of the Eightfold Path.

It’s been really fascinating reading.  I was aware of the basic aspects of Right Action – which are:

♥  abstain from killing

♥  abstain from lying

♥  abstain from stealing

♥  abstain from sexual misconduct

♥  abstain from intoxicants

 

I didn’t realise the broader applications of this step of the path though.

That “abstain from killing” can really be extended to “do no harm”.  Do no harm to yourself or others.  

Any physical action that hurts another person – vandalizing property, arson, intimidation, practical jokes – are all acts of harm.

The same as for “abstain from stealing”.  This applies not only to obvious acts of stealing – for example robbery – but to everything that we take that is not given.  Even so far as taking credit for someone else’s work.  Or pointing out if a store clerk has forgotten to charge you for something, or given you too much change.

For the last step “abstain from intoxicants”, we can look behind the words, and the obvious connotations – no alcohol or drugs – to the higher level of meaning we can find in these words. In what other ways do we “drug” ourselves?  Surfing the internet when we should be working, watching extreme amounts of TV, indulging in anything in large amounts (sugar, junk food etc) – are all ways of escaping.

On the opposite side “abstaining from intoxicants” means eating well, and looking after our bodies.  Which is a great coincidence for me, as I bought a juicer on the weekend, and have been enjoying experimenting with juices, and am trying hard to eat a lot healthier.

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I’m looking forward to exploring this more in the coming week.

For me today, I concentrated on “do no harm”.  Whilst walking to school I was careful not to accidentally step on any snails or other insects.

Upon walking home I found a snail that had obviously been injured by someone walking before me.  I picked it up gently and put it in a safe place, hoping that it would recover.

And in another instance, I found a butterfly that had been killed and was lying on the foothpath.  I couldn’t just walk past and leave it. So I picked it up and gently carried it to a nice sheltered spot on a rock a distance along the path.

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With my blessings,

Meg

 

“The basis of Right Action is to do everything in mindfulness.”

~  Thich Nhat Hanh

No harsh (written) speech

For me “no harsh speech” is relatively easy – in it’s simplest form anyway: swearing.

I stopped swearing a long time ago.  Not that I ever did it a lot – only occasionally.  However whenever I did swear, it always triggered the exact same reaction – laughter.  Because everyone said it sounded so ridiculous to hear those words coming out of my mouth.

And it really didn’t suit me.

Once I became pregnant, it further reinforced my decision to refrain from swearing.

It just sounds so unpleasant – and there are so many other wonderful, beautiful, expressive words that we can use instead.  

Although I am digressing a little….

In keeping with my “week of right speech”, today I was being extra mindful of harsh speech, and for me that was negative words – both speaking out loud, and via written words.

It’s something I have been working on lately – to REALLY think about what I am saying, and whether I could rephrase it.

Today in talking to my ex-husbands girlfriend (long story), I quickly re-typed a couple of words as I wrote the email.  I was going to say that the weather lately (lots of rain) had been “frustrating”.  I deleted that out though and replaced it with “challenging”.

When talking to a friend earlier, I was going to say that I was sick of walking to and from school in the rain.  However I thought about that – and that didn’t really sum up how I felt.  So I re-phrased it to say that the novelty was wearing off.

It’s a really interesting practice – because at first you do have to consciously think about which words you choose to use.  And to change it from negative to positive (or at least neutral).  However it soon becomes natural.  And what we say influences how we feel.  If we speak in positive terms, it changes our thoughts, and our mood as well.

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Mindfulness of exhaustion

Even though I am halfway through my week of concentrating on right speech, today I also found the opportunity to practice mindfulness more extensively.

The process of living is such a fascinating experience when you experience it from the aspect of the eightfold path.

Today I noticed extreme tiredness and disconnection around mid morning.

It’s true that I hadn’t slept well last night (I haven’t slept well for a long time), however this was different.  It wasn’t a sleepy tired, it was more than that.

I was booked in for a work teleconference at 11am, so I made myself a cup of tea about 30 minutes beforehand in an effort to focus my mind and wake up a bit.

And it occurred to me to question – why was I so tired?

And the answer – because I was resisting.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I dislike talking on the phone.  I mean REALLY dislike.  Apart from speaking to my mother, I will avoid all other calls as a general rule.  Text – love it!  Email – definitely.  Facebook – just try to stop me.

I realised that I was unconsciously resisting having to have this work teleconference.  For no particular reason – I liked the other caller, and have had regular pleasant dealings with her (via email :p).   

However my distinct “don’t want to” undercurrent that was in the background was making me excessively tired.

So I re framed the situation.  I spent time thinking about the opportunities in the conversation.  For connectedness, for kindness, compassion, and deep listening (yes, even in a work call).

By the time she called, I was calm and ready and enthusiastic.

And the call went really well.  And afterwards I felt GREAT.  I felt happy and lighter and more cheerful.  And I realised that was because it was such a good phone call – and the positive interaction with another person had brightened my day.  

So that was where “right speech” also came into play today.  During that conversation, and also others that I had during my day.

Blessings to you all,

Meg

The week of right speech

As mentioned in my last post, I’m enjoying listening to talks by Gil Fronsdal on the Eightfold Path.  

I would really like to explore this area further, and in more depth, and I had an idea this afternoon – I will devote one week to each step of the path.  To try to learn as much as I can, and incorporate it as much as possible into my life.

So this week is Right Speech.

I’d love to hear – have you read any books that you recommend on Skilful speech?  Or any articles or blog posts?  Or even any tricks that you use to remember to speak wisely?

Right speech is an area I am so passionate about, and interested in.

We can do both great harm and benefit with our speech.  And it’s so interesting to be mindful of what we are saying, and how we are saying it.

I think for me the greatest challenge will be no idle speech. Not so much gossip (which I don’t participate in), but more chatter with no particular purpose.  

So that will be a particular goal for me this week 🙂

Blessings to you all,

Meg

The power of intention

I’m currently listening to a series of talks by Gil Fronsdal on the eightfold path.

I’ll be honest – I’m probably Gil’s biggest fan :D.  I absolutely adore his talks, and am grateful beyond words for what I have learnt from listening to them.

I’m currently up to the 2nd in the series of talks – this one on Right Intention.  And this – along with Right Speech – are my 2 favourite areas of Buddhism.

I’m endlessly fascinated by the effects that both of these areas can have in our lives.

During this talk Gil recommended focusing on our intentions, and how we want to be in this world.  In both large and small ways.  And how we can incorporate it into every are of our lives – from what we want to achieve long term, to how we want to be when we are in the grocery store.

Since listening to this talk (several times in order to take it all in), I’ve listed the following as my deepest intentions:

♥  Parent with calmness, gentleness, softness, understanding, empathy, love and kindness.

♥  Use my free time to learn and apply the teachings of the dharma in my life.

♥  Practice kindness as a way of life.

♥  Savour life and live life slowly and with purpose.

 

Further to deciding our intentions – and asking ourselves not just once, but continuously  to dig deeper beneath our automatic response – Gil recommended giving our intentions great attention whilst meditating.

He gave the example of people who mentally set an “inner alarm clock” to the time they want to wake up the next day.  And the fact that without giving it thought through the night, they do wake up at exactly that time, or just before.  And I have experienced this phenomena frequently in my own life.

So last night I followed his recommendation, and whilst calm and centred during meditation, I gave my intentions great focus.  Although I let them come to me naturally without having to think about them.  And the 3 that came up last night were:

*  Follow the eightfold path.

*  Find opportunities for kindness.

*  Parent with gentleness and calm.

 

I found it to be a really interesting experience.  And this afternoon, for no other reason that I could explain, I felt very calm and relaxed and centred.

My son was in a really foul mood, it was pouring rain (and we have a long way to walk) yet even those things didn’t affect my feeling of calm.  And I must admit I was proud of how I managed to stay equanimous even whilst dealing with 7 year old tantrums.

And although I would not generally describe myself as a laid back parent, I was surprised with my response to the pouring rain.  At first I tried to keep my son under the umbrella, and dry, but then I stopped trying to control him, and gave him the freedom to enjoy it.  I let him run ahead in the rain, laughing and skipping and just enjoying life.  And I must admit it felt GREAT.

Even to the point where I encouraged him to take off his shoes and socks and jump in the puddles :D.  This had him quite intrigued – as a child with autism he doesn’t generally welcome things that are outside his usual routine.  However he loved it.  He was running home jumping in puddles and yelling that it was the best day ever.

And I just felt so calm and happy – to see him enjoying life like that.

I can’t wait to explore this area of setting intentions further.

And I’m interested to know – do you set daily intentions?  If so, what are they?

Blessings,

Meg

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Because what we do matters

I saw a great blog post recently, and the author said that when he is asked why he is Buddhist, he ends with “what we do matters”.  Because those “Four words that encapsulate for me the whole of Buddhist psychology, philosophy and spiritualism as I have come to realize it. “

This really sums up my practice for me also.

What we do matters

What we say

 What we think

 The person that we are in this world

I’ve seen a few posts lately on why (and how) people came to be Buddhists.

For me, it was not a sudden decision that I made.  It was born of divine luck.

About 5 years ago a  close friend at the time was feeling very stressed and wanted to attend meditation classes at a local temple.  She asked me if I would go with her.

I had done meditation in the past, as part of a yoga class that I took.  I remember the first time that I meditated (in the class).  It changed my world.  Literally.   I felt a peace and centredness that I had never before experienced.  As a highly anxious and ‘nervy’ person it was not a state that was common to me.

So I excitedly agreed to join my friend in the meditation class.  As part of the class, we also had a “Introduction to Buddhism” class that followed.

Prior to then I knew nothing about it.  Literally nothing.  I had no understanding, no thoughts and no misconceptions.

The class itself, and the way it was presented, was mildly interesting.

However it sparked something deep within me.  I knew that this was my path.

I always had a very strong desire to be a good person.  To be kind to other people.  A respect for all forms of life.  And Buddhism was the perfect fit for me.  The more I read – and I read A LOT – the more I knew that it was the path for me.

It was not accepted in my family though.

We had a very “non-religious” upbringing.  We actually didn’t have a religion as such.

I remember telling my parents – eventually.  My father’s reaction “It’s a cult!”.  My mother’s “It’s a fad, she’ll snap out of it”.

And of course it was neither.

So I kept my faith and practice to myself.  I quietly read, and learned, and deepened my practice.

That was 5 years ago.

Then 12 months ago my world fell apart.  My husband left.  My son was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome.  I lost my house.  I had a serious car accident (head on collision into a tree), and I wrote off my car.

Amongst other things.

I wouldn’t change any of this for the world though – it’s made me the person I am today.

I experienced true pain and suffering, and now I know empathy and love.

For me it was also a time of great realisation – and the greatest one was that when everything fell apart, all that was left was my son and I.

There was literally no one I could turn to.

And I realised that was because most of my relationships and friendships – even my connection to my family – was superficial.

I didn’t put the time or effort into these relationships that I should have, and that they deserved.

I have turned that around.

But more importantly I realised – I want to be there for other people.

I want to help them and ease their pain.  To be there for them when they are suffering and need help.  To be the port in the storm, providing calm and shelter.

So with these intentions in mind, I continue my practice.

I proudly follow the 5 precepts:

“Do not kill.”

“Do not steal.”

“Do not engage in improper sexual conduct.”

“Do not make false statements.”

“Do not drink alcohol.”

I also follow the Eightfold Path:

Right View

Right Intention

Right Speech

Right Action

Right Livelihood

Right Effort        

Right Mindfulness

Right Concentration

Although this is not to say that I don’t make mistakes.  But I try to learn from them.

And so I walk along the path….

Humbled and grateful for the opportunity to do so.

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