Posts Tagged ‘Buddhism’

The Pororoca lives in my memory now. In Brazil however, twice a year, the wave rolls on. Sometimes ridden by an inquisitive surfer, sometimes with no one to watch it.

Every time it builds up, it passes São Luis – the bustling town that lies near the mouth of the river.

It rumbles through the region of Maranhao where population dwindles and buildings become huts. As it approaches narrow banks and shallow water it builds up and passes by the lives of local Brazilians regardless of their problems.

It twists as the river curves and finally nears Arari, the town I used as my base for the expedition that put my problems into perspective.

You see, nature continues as we experience the events that seem to matter so much. As each full moon waxes and wanes, the lives of every person on the banks of the river wax and wane too. As I write this, the full moon tonight is the same one that greeted me in my early morning trips up river to meet the wave of my lifetime. Tonight’s full moon however greets a different me. I’ve changed. I look different. I think different. I’ve grown.

But I’ve changed because I wanted to. I could have returned to my life and struggled but as Robert Frost said, I took, “the road less travelled”.

And like Frost, it did make all the difference.

Now I don’t try to beat the world’s longest wave. In many ways I took the Pororoca home with me. I’ve made decisions since then that have allowed me to ride more waves. I moved so that I am minutes away from nature and waves and forest. I watch the ocean, the wind, the swell and yes, the tide.

I’m happy doing that. I found that the waves I dreamt of as a teenager do exist. I went to the end of the world and found that happiness is under my feet. Do I still struggle? Yes, but that is just part of being human. 40 years of wanting to do something better than before led me back to the place where I don’t feel bad about standing still.

I went from a human doing to a human being. Feels better.


3 days later
It’s my birthday in 13 days.

My first birthday.

Actually the truth is I am 51 but it will be a year to the day that my heart stopped for four hours. On purpose.
You see to replace part of a failing heart with titanium, it has to be stationary.
So now as a heart valve recipient I have a new lease on life physically but a massive change came over me emotionally after the operation. I suppose many people who have had a life or death experience feel the same. (more…)

Change or be changed

Hot day today in Western Australia.

Plus a super storm also ripped through the Philippines.

It seems that the small things we did for the last few decades (at least) have had a profound effect on our life today. With global warming now an obvious fact, we are looking to the things that we can do today that will make a difference in the future.

Problem is, the changes we make today will have no effect tomorrow. We act now and nothing changes. We may even be worse off. It’s still hot in the frying pan.

It will take daily effort … for decades … to cause a turnaround.

Drop Falling into Water

The same applies for any negative situation in your life. Any emotion that you are experiencing today took years for it to become an automatic response. It probably made sense in the beginning. You were hungry so you cried and were fed. Seems easy. Next time you are hungry, you know what to do.

Comes a time though that the old tricks don’t work. You see many years of small decisions created your current situation. Finances, your circle of friends, your intelligence … everything. Problem is, any small changes you make today will have minimal effect tomorrow. The reward will gradually materialise over the long term. So why do some realise this and not others? Or closer to the point, why do I realise this sometimes and not other times.

Recently I wrote about the habits of the extremely successful. Little things done daily that the majority of people dream up excuses for. Success came to those who faced these daily decisions and triumphed over them. Staying strong in the face of laziness and apathy.

So now you know. If you want to change something about yourself it takes a small action repeated every day. That’s all. Just do it. (That seemed to be easy to say)

Back to global warming. Small acts repeated regularly bring dramatic change in the long run. That’s what it takes. Appropriate day today as it is the National Day of Climate Action as organised by activist groups including GetUp, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Big ideas over time are created by many, many repeated acts. Whether you like it or not.

Change or be changed.

As we become settled in our surroundings, we look to change.
My daughter told me today that she never seems to be content with what she is doing, or what she has.
“Situation normal”, I reply.
“That’s no help”, she thinks.

Acceptance is one thing. Becoming comfortable with difficulty, and letting it go, is another.

At 18 years of age she is a great example of what I felt at 18. At 50 I haven’t changed, except I have accepted this is a normal thought process. The trick is to keep striving but be happy with what you have now.

Let’s look at another culture as I am looking through Western eyes.
It seems to me that calmness has been in other cultures for thousands of years.
Buddhists have always reminded themselves that true happiness lies in acceptance of your current situation.
This doesn’t mean you don’t strive for improvement.
It also doesn’t mean pain goes away. It just means the Buddhist accepts.

Japanese martial arts aims for acceptance too. To totally focus on the situation at hand. To deal with a life threatening situation without fear. The Samurai looked to Buddhist philosophies to help them deal with an acceptance of death.
Again from Japan, the Tea Ceremony stipulates careful action, focus on breathing and intense concentration on the current move.
A famous book on Archery was entitled, ” One Breath, One Life”.
The release of the arrow symbolised the life of the target, and the life of the archer.

As Westerners we need to embrace this idea to help us stay grounded, and calm.

Your next step, is … actually … your next step.


Midnight Express

Balanced People Don’t Obsess.

I don’t watch much TV but last night I watched, “The Voice.” For those of you who are unaware it’s a bit like a talent quest. One performer and four judges.

In this case, all four judges passed the performer and applied to be his coach. As the performer was talking, he mentioned his struggle with depression.

Nothing special about that.

Then one coach admitted that he had struggled with depression too. Another coach admitted the same. The other two stayed quiet.

That’s 3/5 people on stage.

All of them high-performers.

I think this is indicative of all high performers. Many struggle with depression or at least OCD. How else can you explain an obsession with performance? Balanced people usually don’t obsess.

So if you typecast yourself as OCD, depressed, ADHD, bipolar, or having a psychological disorder, you are in impressive company.

And what about PTSD? A disorder arising from a trauma. Maybe if you have lived through a traumatic event, it may be just what you need to step head and shoulders above society…

To lead.

To achieve.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I think for some it should be Post Traumatic Stress Opportunity.

Remember Billy Hayes from the film, “Midnight Express?” He spent five years in a Turkish prison and the film recounted his experiences. He said that looking back it was the best thing that ever happened to him. Spending 5 years in a Turkish prison was the best thing? His comment was that he learnt things that he never would have learnt about the human condition.

It’s all about your perspective.

Get Midnight Express here

Start with your inner circle. From there, move further out.


The people that are closest to you are your inner circle.
This is less than 10 people … sometimes less than five.
It is only by achieving meaning with the people in your inner circle are you allowed to move to the outer circle. In much the same way as a rock hits a lake and causes ripples, the greatest impact must be on your inner circle. This will enable you to touch more people in your outer circle.
Giving meaning to those in your inner circle means making a difference.
Improving their life.
Imparting knowledge.
Being a role model.
Being a faithful friend.

I am told that if you have five people who love you at your bedside when you die, you are a success.
These five people are your inner circle. Those five are usually the ones you would die for without any thought whatsoever.
Start by saying out loud, the name of the five people in your inner circle. Say them now. You should not have to hesitate. The ones that come to mind first are the ones you would give your life to.
Say them out loud. In order.

Outside of that inner circle we can mention other people who have contact with you. They could be fellow workers, clients, customers, church members, sporting group members. The more people you can meaningfully reach in your outer circle is a measure of your career or financial success.
It’s not a requisite for happiness.

It is a fact of life that by working for a living, it means we spend most of our time with the people in our outer circle. Often customers or work colleagues. This isn’t wrong, it’s just the way the world spins.
Remember that the quality of your life is measured by the quality of the time that you have. Give me 50 great years over 100 miserable years any day.
Problem is we gotta work.
We spend 8 hours at work servicing hundreds or thousands of people.
But the one hour you spend in the day with someone from your inner circle should be the one that you put the most thought into.

Drop Falling into Water

“Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them. They move on. They move away. The moments that used to define them – a mother’s approval, a father’s nod – are covered by moments of their own accomplishments. It is not until much later, as the skin sags and the heart weakens, that children understand; their stories, and all their accomplishments, sit atop the stories of their mothers and fathers, stones upon stones, beneath the waters of their lives.”
Mitch Albiom,
The Five People You Meet In Heaven

Depression is just an internal dialogue struggle.
Everyone has an internal chatter happening constantly. Those who have been struck with depression are simply experiencing a struggle with that dialogue.
So to put this in Buddhist terms, identifying and accepting that a struggle exists is half way to controlling it.
The cessation of suffering is finding an antidote for that struggle.
The remedy is to concentrate on doing things that create a positive internal dialogue.
Not in stopping the things that create a negative internal dialogue.
Take weight loss for example. To cut down on the amount you eat can not be achieved by sitting and staring at a fridge whilst thinking, “I will not eat, I will not eat.”
A new habit must be formed in its place.
It is well-documented that people who suffer from depression have a chemical imbalance. These chemicals can be replaced medically but must also be supplemented with a lifestyle change. The lifestyle change, which includes regular exercise, will change a person’s internal dialogue for the better.
This will maximise the chance of a positive outcome.

Lifestyle change.

It’s worth a shot.

From Trauma To Enlightenment.

It’s been 30 days since a part of my heart was replaced with a mechanism made of carbon fibre. As I sit here typing this, I can hear it click with each beat of my heart. Kids can hear it across the room and ask, “What is that sound?” Adults hearing isn’t that finely tuned as life has dulled our senses.

The clicking is a constant reminder of an event 30 days ago.

For the surgeon it was just another day at the office. He has done over 4000 of these operations. But when you are on the receiving end, it is traumatic to say the least.
To begin with, my sternum was cut from top to bottom and pulled open for 4 hours. All this so the surgeon could get his hands in.
After the repairs are done, they wire your sternum back again and stitch you up.
I explain this as a precursor to my real point. I’ve never been happier.
The peace of mind is not because of the extension to my lifespan I’ve been given.
It’s the perspective I’ve been given.
So yes, your difficulties transport you to the next level in life. They are an elevator to the next floor that has a better view.
And the view is pretty good from where I sit now.

It’s obvious that trauma causes enlightenment. But is enlightenment possible without the trauma?
Surely from where I sit, I should be able to direct other people towards enlightenment so that they avoid the trauma.
Not possible.
So those of us who have experienced the trauma, sit here and wait for others to join us. To join the brotherhood. To shake their hand and express our happiness at their arrival. We quietly look on as others bounce from one diversion to another. Chasing the very thing that prevents the happiness that they so passionately and urgently seek.
It’s only when the person exhausts all the energy through chasing these opportunities that they finally sit down and see the comfort that was at their feet anyway. Like the student of Zen who is confounded by an unanswerable question. His mind pushes him so far around the bend, that he meets himself on the way back.
The Zen master watches patiently, occasionally hitting the student with a stick to jolt him out of his present way of thinking. The timing of the hit with the stick is critical.

There is a little known Zen story of a master and a student walking in the dark. The master hands the student a candle so he can make his way home. As the student accepts the candle, the master blows it out.
In that moment, the student achieves enlightenment.
He is still in the dark but achieves acceptance of the situation.

Life is good.
06 3 days later


Posted: February 27, 2013 in Depression
Tags: ,

Feb 28th
Last few days overseas.
8/10 feeling. Is this due to being away or having the time to process my thoughts? I am also reading a book comparing Buddhism with psychology. It is probably a combination of all.
However, I am giving myself time to withdraw and not feel guilty, knowing I will come back to life when I’m ready.
It’s acceptance.
That’s what it is.
Acceptance of my way of doing things.
And this way I enjoy my life more. And it’s something I can sustain without hurting anyone. Chasing an external high usually ends up bad in the long run.
The key? Finding an internal high that is always there.