Wednesday, September 9, 2015


"Please share a few words about your experiences over the past 12 weeks"
This was the instruction, at the final class of my Meditation & Zen Buddhism Course.

My respons: "It has been a huge sigh of relief. I've been told, on many occasions, that I'm naive, I need to grow up and I need to realize that the world is a tough place, it's eat or be eaten. But here, I've realized that maybe I'm not crazy after all, my sunny outlook on life isn't something I need to rid myself of and it's perfectly ok to be happy and content.

Also, it has been great to be around people who are trying to solve their personal problems, and problems of the world, through kindness and compassion."

Let me take you back a few months. Last winter I started thinking about meditation, as a great tool to have in life's toolbox. My understanding of meditation was the ability to calm the mind and to be able to see things for what they truly are. I thought it might be a good thing to learn while life is good and easy, so that in the future, if I need it, I would already have a head start.

The step to explore meditation was not a very big one. My grandparents were both devout Buddhists and avid meditators, so even if I never took part, or knew much about it, Buddhism and meditation wasn't anything foreign or mystical.

After New Year, I started the exploration in the privacy of my home. I Googled books and articles and ended up reading a couple. A book that I found particularly approachable was "How to Meditate", by Pema Chödrön. But the more I read the more I understood the benefits of participating in guided meditation.

After some more research (i.e. Yelp) I found Chung Tai Zen Center in Sunnyvale, just a couple of miles from where I live. They offered free Meditation and Zen Buddhist classes throughout the year, different level courses, each lasting 12 weeks. Once a week, one hour of meditation, followed by one hour of Buddhist teachings.

In all honesty, I was somewhat hesitant at first. I wanted the one hour meditation, but wasn't sure about the one hour lecture that followed. Would they try to "recruit" me and rope me into their religion? But I was still curious, and also interested in how it all tied together. Curiosity won. And I'm so very glad it did. The lectures were interesting and inspiring in so many ways, and it gave depth to the meditation I wouldn't want to be without.

I ended up doing Level 1, and this week, I'm starting Level 2. I've found all of it very interesting, very thoughtful and sometimes very challenging. I expect I will want to share some of the things I've learned and some of my personal insights moving forward. But for now, I'll leave you with something inspired from a fellow meditator. This older gentleman presented himself as a devout Catholic, born, raised and practicing. When he is asked how he consolidates his Catholic beliefs with attending classes at the temple, he simply says "There is only one God, but Buddha is a great teacher".

To make his quote my own, "I don't believe there is a God/Gods, but I believe Buddha is a great teacher".

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

No complaining, please!

Today is September 1st and summer has officially come to an end. A new season brings a great opportunity to take a refreshed look at things. So, in the spirit of self-revising, I will set myself a challenge, or will conduct an experiment rather. Over the next 30 days, there will be no complaining.

Let me elaborate. Over the next 30 days I will make every effort not to vocalize negative sentiments that will not lead to actual action. So, no complaining, no negative comments, no "policing", no whining, no arguing, no debating etc. You get the picture.

Why am I doing this? If you ask people who know me, I don't think they would describe me as a negative person or a pessimist. In my own self-assessment, I'm pretty easy going and generally happy. So this is not an intervention or an "attitude-detox". However, I've noticed how often negative comments creep into conversations, almost like fillers we don't really think about. I'm curious to know how much I do it myself.

I'm also hoping to discover in what ways it will affect my conversations when I become more aware of how I participate in them. This will make me much more mindful of the words I speak. And how will this affect my thoughts? Will I internalize and turn my mind into a cynical whiner, because I lack other outlets? Or will I let things go faster because I can't seek reinforcements?

Since this experiment came about out of curiosity, rather than needing a life-overhaul, and in keeping with a positive attitude, I will not be penalized if I slip, there will be no "swear-jar". I will allow myself to answer questions honestly and I will always have the option to say no, or to walk away. This is a "no-negativity" challenge, not a "always-positive" challenge. Also, I realize the subjective nature of defining "negative", but when in doubt, at least I will have to make a conscious decision.

If you and I have a conversation over the next 30 days, please help me and call me out if I slip. Please be patient if it takes me longer to respond than usual. In the best of worlds, these 30 days will not be much different from all other days. In the worst of worlds, these 30 days will be very quite days. But then again, maybe quite isn't always such a bad thing.