Seeing Life Differently

Seeing Life DifferentlyDo you remember the day you mastered the art of riding a bicycle? Of course you do. For me, it was the culmination of a rather lengthy, and very frustrating process, and but for the perseverance  of my father, I might never have learned at all.

I just couldn’t seem to get it. It looked so simple, but the harder I tried, the worse I got. Then suddenly it clicked, I had it nailed, and from that day on I have been able to ride a bike.

Ok, so it’s no huge revelation, but I think learning about Buddhism is a bit like learning to ride a bike.

As you learn, about The Oneness of Self and the Universe, about Karma, about Life-Energy or The Ten Worlds, you also learn to see yourself, life and the Universe in a different way. And just in the way that having learned to ride a bicycle, you never unlearn the skill, once you learn to see the world through different eyes, you never unlearn that either.

Deep in my heart, I know that I am different for having Buddhism at the centre of my life. Some people have noticed that change, others ask what has changed and how I know that it’s a real change, not just a fad, or ‘a phase I’m going through’.

Well as I say, once you see the world differently, you just can’t un-see it that way. It’s a wonderful change, and I’m very confident, not to say delighted, that it’s a permanent change.

Stop Waiting, Start Living

Don't Just Sit ThereIf you think about it, although we may not be destined to die five minutes from now, we are all, without exception, going to die at some point. We can count on it 100%. There is nothing surer than this.

Victor Hugo said, “We are all under sentence of death, but with a sort of indefinite reprieve.”

Ideally, we should live every minute of our lives mindfully, as if it were the last moment of our lives. Those who live aimlessly are left with a sense of emptiness at the end of their lives, but those who live all-out, striving to achieve their goals right to the end, will die peacefully.

Leonardo da Vinci said “As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well used brings happy death.”

One who is aware that death could come at any time, will live each day to the fullest. So don’t wait for something to happen, or someone to come along, before you start living, do it now.

Look And Learn

Look And LearnI love the way this poem beautifully encapsulates the stages of learning, and the long, long road to enlightenment …

  1. I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk I fall in. I am lost… I am hopeless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out. ~~~~

  2. I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I’m in the same place. But it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out. ~~~~

  3. I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in…it’s a habit My eyes are open; I know where I am; It is my fault. I get out immediately. ~~~~

  4. I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it. ~~~~

  5. I walk down another street.
~ Portia Nelson

Life is a series of lessons. As our wisdom increases, we learn more and more from each lesson. Be heartened by your progress, do not be down-hearted by the mistakes you make, they are a sure sign that you are living life to the full.

Just Stuff

Supernovae - The Events That Make EverythingWe are all made of the same stuff, in fact everything we know about through science supports my Buddhist belief that we are at one with the Universe, being literally made of stardust.

The elements of Hydrogen and Helium, that are involved in the fusion taking place in a star, such as our sun, are the building blocks of all other elements, created as the star collapses under the force of gravity.

This process sometimes creates what we now call a supernova, a huge, intensely bright, but very short lived source of light. This in fact may have been the source of the ‘star’ that guided the Three Wise Men in the Christian religion.

Our bodies are made of a collection of the same elements as those created in the stars, iron, carbon even a little gold, but in essence, we are all stardust. When we die, those elements are returned to the Universe and the cycle goes on.

The Universe is around 13.5 billion years old and the cycle of birth and death has been going on for much of that time. We have come from the Universe, we will go back into the Universe. Science facts for the last few years and Buddhist beliefs for more than two millennia. As I say, a little tongue in cheek, science is finally catching up with Buddhism.

Infinite Connectivity

Infinite ConnectivityIn the true reality of life as viewed from the enlightened state of a Buddha, one who has broken free of all delusion, all things are equal, transcending distinctions and differences between subject and object, self and others, mind and body, the spiritual and the material.

In its true aspect, life is infinitely expansive and eternal, without beginning or end. Life is dynamic; it is wisdom and compassion; it embodies the principle of the indivisibility of life and death; it is a universal law.

The cosmos is not so big that life cannot embrace it, nor the smallest particle of matter so small that life cannot be contained within it.

A Stream Of Consciousness

The Hampshire AvonBehind our offices in Ringwood, runs the Bickley Mill stream, a small tributary of the river Avon. In winter it can be quite a torrent, but since the long dry summer, that flow has slowed to little more than a trickle. So with a little time to spare first thing this morning, I stood on the bank watching the water moving slowly past.

I have always found water fascinating. The conjunction of reflected and refracted images mean that there is a merging of environments. It is not possible to see the bottom of the stream clearly and yet you are offered glimpses of clarity as the water ripples produce the perfect angle to see through the surface. An instant later that view is gone.

I can see a similarity between this phenomena and our lives. You may have experienced times when you have a sudden flash of clarity, regarding a problem or opportunity, then moments later it is gone, cloaked by the smokescreen of everyday life. I know that I have woken from a particularly vivid dream, where the memories are so clear that it has taken a second or two to realise that it was a dream. Almost as soon as that realisation kicks in, the memories start fading, so quickly that within minutes it would be quite difficult to relate the dream to someone else in all its detail.

Another thought popped into my head. The flow of the river, the flow of time and the passage of our lives are all one and the same. Specialist subject ‘stating the obvious’ you might be saying, but it was one of those clarity moments which almost takes ones breath away. I think we should all take a second to remember, that moment by moment, our lives are moving like the river, from future, to present, to past, in an unstoppable flow. Wishing for the weekend to be here, waiting for that special event, all miss the immediate imperative, that every second is precious and should be used to the full.

Nobody knows when their time will be up, when they have no more future, only past. That, in my opinion is a good thing, imagine the sense of panic that would be induced by seeing that ‘life clock’ ticking down to 00:00:00. What is important is to use your time wisely and never, ever, waste a single second.

The Colour Of Living

Colours Of LifeThere is nobody lonelier or more unhappy than a person who does not know the pure joy of creating a life for her or himself.

To be human is not merely to stand erect and manifest intelligence or knowledge. To be human, in the full sense of the word, is to lead a creative life. The struggle to create new life from within is a truly wonderful thing.

Here we find the brilliant wisdom that guides and directs the workings of reason, the light of insight that penetrates the furthest reaches of the Universe, the undaunted will to see justice done that meets and challenges all the assaults of evil, the spirit of unbounded care that embraces all who suffer.

When these are fused with the energy of compassion that pours fourth from the deepest sources of cosmic life, an ecstatic rhythm arises to colour the lives of all people.

Opportunity Knocks

Exploring LifeEvery day can be an adventure into the unknown. If we allow ourselves to go with the flow of events, we can find ourselves in new situations, with new challenges.

Making assumptions about where life will take us, to expect the mundane, the ordinary, the usual, may mean that we walk straight past the very opportunity we need to take our lives in a completely different and exciting direction.

The belief taught in the Lotus Sutra provides no easy answers, no escape route from the difficulties of human life. In fact it firmly rejects such easy answers, and instead implores us to take up the two tools for exploring life.

The use of those tools, belief and understanding, allows us to continually challenge, and work to perfect, ourselves. When combined with the practice of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, they also provide us with the wisdom, courage and compassion and the energy to do just that.

Too Many Lumps And Bumps

Saddle SoreIf you ride a bike on the roads around Britain you’ll know how lovely it is to find yourself on a stretch of nice new smooth tarmac. The lumps and bumps of our older repaired roads really can rattle your bones, so the new surface is a real treat.

Life is very much like that too. It’s the lumps and bumps of everyday life that make you realise just how comfortable the smooth untroubled times are. But without the rough times, we would never recognise the comparison and enjoy the easier times when they appear.

We all know, that as we move through life, it is impossible to stay on the smooth untroubled path. The bumpy times are a simple fact, just as they are out on the road. So when they come along, just be determined, hold on tight, keep pedalling and look forward to the smoother times ahead.

Get It Sorted

Rubik's CubeSorting out our life can be a bit like solving a Rubik’s cube, each aspect is like one of the faces, separate but all connected. We work to get one face, let’s say Blue sorted out. On it’s own that task is pretty easy and we complete it quite quickly. So we move on to to the Red face, again it’s pretty easy, in isolation, so we get it sorted and we feel a satisfaction in that. But then we turn the cube back to the Blue side, and it’s all messed up again, because it is connected to the Red side.

Life is just like that. Every aspect of life is connected, to our family, our friends, our work. Just like Rubik’s cube, unless you know the rules for arranging the sides, it can be pretty impossible. The only way to get our lives sorted, is to learn the rules governing how they fit together. I say rules, but there’s nothing written down anywhere that will teach you. So it’s often a case of trial and error, to some degree. Hopefully our parents teach us the ground rules, but every situation is different, so it’s necessary to modify or adapt the rules so they fit.

There are two big differences between life and Rubik’s cube. The first is that unlike the cube, life is no game, obviously, and second, life is nowhere as simple as getting six coloured faces sorted out. So whether you are playing with a Rubik’s cube, or trying to sort your life out, I wish you good fortune. Wisdom, courage and compassion in huge and equal measure will go a long way in many respects. From my point of view, the news is mixed. I’m getting better, but still learning to do both.

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