Monday, October 24, 2011

At this moment, I am not suffering

(Image from liquidsculpture.com)
A couple of days ago, while I was drinking a glass of water in my kitchen, a powerful thought suddenly arose in my mind and refused to go away.  That thought was:
"At this moment, right here, right now, I am not suffering."
The thought that immediately preceded it was remembering my first meditation teacher, the late Godwin Samararatne, one of the great lay meditation teachers in the world during his lifetime, but mostly unknown to the world. 

A number of us suspected that Godwin was not just an "ordinary" great teacher, we suspected that he may be enlightened, in the Buddhist sense of the word.  Every time that topic came up, though, he would brush it aside with humorous humility.  For example, he would say that, "I don't know what an enlightened being looks like, but I know he doesn't look like this", then pointing to himself.  And then everybody would laugh.

One time, in private, my friend who was hosting Godwin kept pushing that question.  As usual, Godwin kept brushing it aside humbly, but my friend would have none of that humility BS, he just kept asking.  Finally, Godwin paused, and then with a serious expression, he said, "Let's put it this way, I have no more suffering."

I remembered that, and then a thought occurred to me that even though I was not free from suffering, I had the next best thing, which was that at that very moment, I was not suffering.

That thought was so powerful it kept reoccurring in my mind.  Every now and then, the thought would re-arise that says, "At this moment, I am not suffering."  Every time that happened, I returned to peace.

We may be able to frame a practice around this powerful idea.  After all, maybe freedom from suffering is simply not suffering at this moment at every moment indefinitely.  This suggests the practice that begins with recognizing when I am not suffering right now, understanding the conditions that enabled it, and then cultivating those same conditions for the future.  Allow me to write my suggestion in verse:
Temporarily free from greed,
Temporarily free from hatred,
Temporarily free from grasping and aversion,
At this moment, I am not suffering.

Cultivating generosity, to be free from greed in the future,
Cultivating kindness and compassion, to be free from hatred in the future,
Cultivating wisdom, to be free from grasping and aversion in the future,
I create the conditions for non-suffering in the future.

In giving, in loving and in meditating,
I free myself.

Nothing the Buddha hasn't already said, but slightly reframed in a new context.

Monday, October 17, 2011

How to Chase away your customers

I recently opened my first account with Chase Bank.  As part of opening that account, I made an initial check deposit.  Today, I received a letter saying that deposit is on hold because "the deposited check is not consistent with the account's normal deposit activity."

This is an initial deposit in a brand new account, it is 100% (1 out of 1) of the account's "normal deposit activity".  Duh!

It gets worse, the letter includes nonsensical statements such as this (referring to the deposit): "If the item is returned to us unpaid, your account will be charged for the amount of this item."  Huh?

And the comedy continues.  The signature area of their credit card seems to be coated with some chemical that makes it impossible for pen ink to stick, so I could not sign the card with any of my pens.  Ironically, the credit card is branded as "Ink".  It should have been "No Ink".

I'm now seriously concerned I let this institution handle my money.  This bank seems to have trouble even with foundational probabilistic reasoning (such as 1/1 = 100%).  I probably should have known better than to hand my money to folks who brand their credit cards "Ink".  Jeez.  Then again, you would think that if their branding was this bad, they must be good at something else.  Besides,  I'm too lazy to change banks or move my money out.  My laziness is Chase Bank's friend.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How am I? I am happy and at peace

Whenever people asked me, "How are you?" I used to have one of two frequent responses:
- "I am fine."
- "Busy, busy."

I found both responses to be unsatisfactory.  So recently, I decided to change my response to, "I am happy and at peace" whenever it is true.  And since I am happy and at peace a lot, thanks to my years of mindfulness training, even when I'm busy and feeling overwhelmed (which also happens a lot), it is fast becoming my default response.

To my surprise, I found that response to have a big impact on others.  Some people tell me that when they hear that response, they immediately also feel happy and at peace.  Wow.  The simple act of articulating your own inner well-being can inspire others.  Very cost-effective.

I also discovered that responding that way has an impact on me.  When I stop saying, "I'm busy, busy" and start saying "I'm happy and at peace", my frame of reference changes.  I stopped seeing my being as an island of peace surrounded by a sea of busy-ness, and started seeing it as an island of busy-ness surrounded by a sea of peace.  The circumstantial situation is unchanged, but the mind frames it differently, and that change in framing alone changes the mental and emotional state.  It makes the mind perceive the peace more easily than it usually does, and what the mind can perceive easily, it can indulge in easily.  So mind changes its indulgence from busy-ness to peace.

I hope you too are happy and at peace, my friend.

Friday, October 7, 2011

I'm Still Thinking Different, Steve

I have always thought different.  I have always been different.  I am the crazy one, the misfit, the rebel, even by Google standards.  Eric Schmidt half-jokingly wagged his finger at me and called me a "troublemaker".

In retrospect, I think I have been so successful in my life because I thought so differently.  It has not been easy, however.  Thinking different means you never really fit in.  It means nobody can really understand you, ever.  It is very lonely here.  Once you are here, there are only two paths.  One is a slow, lonely path towards some form of self-destruction.  The other is to let go of your ego and dedicate whatever talents you may think you have towards the service of greater good.  I chose the second path.  I thank the Buddha everyday because his teachings gave me the capacity to make that choice.

Given this context, many years ago, I watched a "Think Different" TV ad commissioned by Steve Jobs which obviously reflected his own personality.  It touched and inspired me like no 60-second video ever did.

Here is the video and the text:


"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify and vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as crazy, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."

Thank you, Steve.  I'm sorry I missed the chance to meet you.  You will always be an inspiration and a hero, and this world will miss you very much.