Archive for April, 2011

Now that Easter is over, why not see what another world view can add to your spectrum of  the human experience? Buddhism is one of my favorites, because it suggests multiple paths to enlightenment. So stop being a dharma bum,and expand your mind! Let’s look first at the Bhavacakra (or Wheel of Life), believed to be created by the Buddha, Siddharta Gautama.

Illustrated and Narrated!  Buddha’s Wheel of Life.

The Bhavacara shows the 6 Realms of Life, as well as the Hub of life, which propels all lifeforms in the circle of existence. We have the Realm of Humans, Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Realm of Hells, Realm of Animals, and Realm of Titans.

Then we go to the Realm of the Gods. We’ve all been Gods and will be again…seeking pleasure but being generous and happy, actually. Enjoying certain types of happiness too much will lead you to the divinity realm.

Such an excellent metaphor for life! Diving into what you truly enjoy will raise you to the level of godliness. While too much fun can prevent you from entering Nirvana,  I say what’s the rush anyway? Becoming a god sounds good to me!

Narrator of NPR’s display of the Bhavacakra, Robert Thurman, is the first American to be ordained as a Tibetan Monk. Tibetan Monks are known for their fast-track methods to buddhahood (perhaps why this sect holds appeal for Westerners) and also for their extreme methods of protest, as seen in last month’s self-immolation of 21 year old  Tibetan Monk, Phuntsog, in protest of Chinese governmental controls.

Thurman notes that at the center of the wheel there are three great evils: delusion, desire, and hatred– all which originate from a feeling of separation from the universe. If we are to take the Bhavacakra literally, we can assume that Phuntsog has escaped the torment of constant rebirth and become one with the universe. He has  entered Nirvana, as he has placed the good of the universe above his personal identity, recognizing that he is a small part of a greater whole. You don’t have to be that altruistic, though. Remember, you’re only a buddha-in-training this life cycle!

Ever feel like the world is falling down around you? One way to combat the woe-is-me mentality is to look at the  devastating issues other people are dealing with. To fight off delusion, shake some sense into yourself by reading Mario Podeschi’s account of the recent Japanese earthquakes.

If you’re looking to forsake desire and avoid the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, consider that consumerism is one of the largest traps that can distract from the creation of an adventurous life. While occasional shopping is necessary and enjoyable, it is all too easy to become addicted to material comforts and lose sight of the truly amazing experiences life has to offer. Daily Worth can help you avoid the siren-like call of the SALE sign so you can quit ambling around like a retail zombie and focus on more important occupations, like…

Inspiration for the pre-enlightened! Though not officially a Buddha, Woody Guthrie had enormous impact in uniting and enlightening the American people during hard times as well as inspiring ground-breaking artists such as Bob Dylan– very Buddha-esque, if you ask me. News that The GRAMMY Museum will be featuring a Centennial Celebration starting July 14th, 2012, one hundred years after Guthrie’s birthday, gets me excited about the proven capacity for one human to change the world in a positive way. Exploring Guthrie’s life and music may unleash new creative powers even a century after his time! It’s far in advance, but that leaves plenty of time to save up and plan an adventure to Los Angeles.

Of course, you already know about the wonders of yoga, but let me remind you once more! Traditionally, Hatha is the practice of physical yoga and Jnana is the practice of mental yoga: meditation. Both practices actually originated from Hinduism, the mother of Buddhism, but continue to be integral parts of the daughter religion.

Hatha yoga is a series of body poses that require and encourage balance, strength, and flexibility through controlled breathing and mental focus. Yoga involves a series of poses that can be combined into sequences and modified to create various progressions. Does part of that sound like meditation to you? Exactly! So, in a single one-hour yoga class you can challenge and sharpen your body and mind. Amazing!

If we train in meditation systematically, eventually we shall be able to eradicate from our mind the delusions that are the causes of all our problems and suffering. In this way, we shall come to experience permanent inner peace. Then, day and night in life after life, we shall experience only peace and happiness.

The New Meditation Handbook, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

Jnana yoga can be broken down into two types: analytical meditation and placement meditation.  Analytical meditation involves the contemplation of a spiritual lesson or idea until true understanding of the idea is found. Placement meditation requires focusing on the understanding until it is a part of one’s immediate self (Gyatso p. 9). In this way, you can develop positive personal traits through contemplation which leads to action. If you need help on the specific methods of meditation, you can purchase  The New Meditation Handbook online for only $1.99 (or used for a penny)!

Although the study of Buddhism is  fascinating, remember that Buddhism is actually about doing. In some cases, it’s about doing nothing but experiencing the present moment. Research, relax, explore. Practice self-restraint and wild enjoyment. Being a buddha-in-training means you get to fully explore life and probably won’t incur the pesky business of setting yourself on fire. Live life with happiness and unleash the buddha inside you!

I love to pick and choose from different philosophies and religions the ideas which strike me as worth exploration. What do you think about this piecemeal approach? What’s your philosophy? Comment and let me know!


Modern Princesses

Through hours and hours of replayed movies and long lines around the corner of the local cinema on opening night of Pocahontas, the women of our generation were taught to be Disney Princesses. It is a large task, to grow into a princess, but multitudes of women accomplish it daily. They achieve beauty: the individual kind that radiates from within. They live out their dreams and pursue a life of adventure, even if they usually end up falling in love. They are rebellious spirits who stick up for what’s right. I believe we have not only matched the examples of our earliest childhood icons, but improved the experience of being woman by choosing to do more with our lives.

My earliest childhood role model was Belle à la Beauty and the Beast.

I see Belle in myself now; making regular trips to the library and getting caught up in grand adventures of plot. Recently, however, I’ve been peeking my head outside the confines of the page to discover what experience can teach me.

Some see the princess icons as having a damaging effect on the mentality of women. How often do you hear that there will be “no knight in shining armor to carry you off into the sunset”? Barbara Ehrenreich of the Times even goes so far as to call the princesses a cult. She sees symbols of passiveness and weakness in the princesses. Sure, they’re no Dora the Explorer, but they were still a part of the upbringing of millions of women before Dora and Kai-Lan were around, and  probably helped to shape some of the writers of these very cartoons. Aren’t there more to the varied personas of these fictitious women than some might give them credit for? The Disney Princesses always seized experiences when they came knocking: they didn’t back down to society or more severe challenges without a fight. Belle left home, willing to face danger in order to save her father. Ariel defied her “no you can’t” surroundings to explore the world up above. But we, as the authors of our own lives, can’t wait  for opportunity to come knocking in the form of a prince or a monster. We must do our own knocking and create adventure for ourselves! There are a sea of different pasts to explore, or futures to imagine, but the most exciting adventure is  happening in the present moment. The stories we absorb, from the earliest cartoon musicals to the huge novels we stay up all night reading, can show us who we want to be or reveal parts of ourselves we never knew, but we can only become the people of our dreams by doing.

It is my desire to capture and share all the amazing adventure headed my way as I reach out to the world!