How to Fight: Reflections


When someone speaks negatively about you, you usually feel that you need to retaliate. Every time you react, you create certain neural-pathways in your brain. The more you react, the more you strengthen those same pathways, while weakening others.

Overtime you build the habit of always reacting in a particular way whenever someone is negative toward you. These habitual reactions then lead you into more anger, fear, and hatred. Your need to punish whoever is causing you suffering, so you can find some sense of relief, only makes you suffer more.



Although habits are challenging to break, your mind is capable of changing. You can water the seeds of kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and love in your inner garden. You don’t have to water the seeds of anger, fear, hatred, delusion, and craving. When you are aware of what you are doing, of how you’re thinking and feeling and perceiving, you won’t react as blindly to the events of your life.


When someone is unpleasant, you want to react. You want to cause them the same amount of suffering that they caused in you. Only then, you believe, will you be satisfied, but you never are for long. While it is common to react when you feel angry, misunderstood, unloved, and so on, there is another option.

You can pause instead.

When you pause, you can use those few seconds to make peace with yourself. You can be mindful of your anger, fear, sadness, and uncertainty. You can be aware of what may happen if you do react.

All you need to do is return to your breath.

Counting deeply, notice what is happening: your heart beating, your head aching, your shoulders tensing. When you stop to breathe in and out, in and out, you can transform your destructive energy into compassionate energy.

Every irritation will be a chance for you to come back to yourself.


When you are angry with someone, you are usually more focused on them than on your own feelings. Your house is on fire, but rather than putting out the flames, you want to burn everything down.

If you can find the inner-space to tend to your own anger first, you will begin to feel relief. When you embrace your feelings, when you do not add fuel to the raging fire, you will gain insight into who you are. Then you can make more skillful choices.

You can acknowledge to yourself, “Breathing in, I feel anger. Breathing out, I feel anger.”



You kill your anger when you smile to it.

When you show compassion to yourself, you can turn what is destructive into what is healing. You don’t need to hide from anger or pretend that it doesn’t exist or judge yourself so harshly. Your tender care of your anger will make you a more peaceful person.


Sometimes when your emotions are loud, you cannot hear what other people are saying to you. When you can sit quietly with yourself — neither judging, expecting, nor condemning — then you can hear the world again. You and the world are one.

As you look at your thoughts, you can let go of your thoughts. As you look at your feelings, you can let go of your feelings. You can see what arises and passes.


When you are in a conversation, you don’t need to interrupt, justify yourself, or blame. You can just hear what someone is saying. Even if they are hateful, greedy, or full of wrong perceptions, you can listen to them deeply.

You can help them, even if only through your presence, your loving words, or your small actions. When you see their humanity in yourself, you want them to be free from their suffering.



Through a regular practice of mindful breathing, you can make peace with yourself.

When you are kind to your suffering, you can relieve the suffering of others.


Often when people listen to each other, they don’t really listen to each other. They only hear their own interpretations, opinions, and beliefs.

When you are not calm, when your mind is muddied by thoughts and feelings, then you are not aware. You react to events blindly then, lost in your stories. When you are present, you sink into stillness, connected to your mind-body. Muddy water clears when you are still.


If you feel upset, you don’t have to speak or act out. Return to your body instead. Breathe in and out. Listen to the other person’s perspective without internally commenting on whether they are right or wrong, good or bad. Speak truthfully, but compassionately, trying to understand what they mean.

Will your speech cause more suffering or will it bring harmony to your relationships?


When you make a mistake, apologize. You don’t have to conjure up excuses to justify yourself. Apologies can relieve a lot of suffering in the other person. At the same time, don’t abuse yourself either.

Practice forgiveness so you can let go of your burdens and begin again.


When you suffer, your suffering will affect others.

When you are peaceful, your peace will radiate out from within.

There is already a lot of violence in civilization. You have to be mindful of your thoughts, feelings, and actions, so that you do not contribute to more hatred, fear, anger, greed, and ignorance. Violence only creates more violence. To prevent the next war, you must practice peace now.

Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

We are already at home in this moment. Yet we spend so much of our lives denying what is here. We get lost in all our storylines, believing that we are permanent, that we are separate from other beings in the world.

We chase after ideas of happiness while fearing to lose what we have. We buy a fancy convertible, work in an office with a window, marry our high-school sweetheart, drink alcohol on Friday nights, climb up a mountain, write a book, study for a bachelor’s degree, make money on the stock market, and on and on. Nothing is ever enough to satisfy our growing desire. In the end, no matter how much we resist, we are all subject to old age, sickness, and death. We cannot capture life. It slips through our fingers, drifting away.

Rather than facing ourselves directly, we repress what causes us to suffer. We act out. We project our personal issues onto others. It is so hard for us to sit with our confusion, fear, and loss. It is so hard for us to soften our hearts to our grief.

“When we find ourselves in a situation in which our buttons are being pushed, we can choose to repress or act out, or we can choose to practice. If we can start to do the exchange, breathing in with the intention of keeping our hearts open to the embarrassment or fear or anger that we feel, then to our surprise we find that we’re also open to what the other person is feeling. Open heart is open heart. Once it’s open, your eyes and your mind are also open, and you can see what’s happening in the faces and hearts of other people. If you’re walking down the street and way off in the distance — so far away that you can’t possibly do anything about it — you see a man beating his dog, and you feel helpless, you can start to do the exchange. You start out doing it for the dog, then you find you’re doing it for the man. Then you’re also doing it for your own heartbreak and for all the animals and people who are abusing and abused, and for all the people like you who are watching and don’t know what to do. Simply by doing this exchange you have made the world a larger, more loving place.” (Chödrön, Pema)

We can react to suffering by hardening or softening our hearts. When we are genuine with ourselves, we can look deeply at our sorrow, our fear, our irritation, and transform that energy into compassion. Every moment, we are being tested.

“If we are wholehearted about wanting to be there for other people without shutting anybody or anything out of our hearts, our pretty little self-image of how kind or compassionate we are gets completely blown. We’re always being tested and we’re always meeting our match. The more you’re willing to open your heart, the more challenges come along that make you want to shut it.” (Chödrön, Pema)

There is no true distinction between what is within us and what is outside of us. When we cause other beings to suffer, we are suffering. When we love others, we love ourselves. When we are aware of life, we can use all of life as a humble lesson for our growth.

Our mistakes are opportunities for us to be more vulnerable and honest and kind. An irritating person is our teacher, a mosquito is our teacher, a crying baby is our teacher. We cannot be in this world without encountering the suffering of others. Rather than reacting, we can mindfully tend to where we are and who we are. We are gardeners who are planting seeds of compassion and love and peace. We can turn our compost into a bloom of flowers.

“We make a lot of mistakes. If you ask people whom you consider to be wise and courageous about their lives, you may find that they have hurt a lot of people and made a lot of mistakes, but that they used those occasions as opportunities to humble themselves and open their hearts. We don’t get wise by staying in a room with all the doors and windows closed.” (Chödrön, Pema)

When we understand our own suffering, we can understand another’s suffering as well. We practice not only for ourselves, but for all the beings who have felt pain, sadness, hatred, envy, and anger, because we have been them. We are them.

When we blame and repress and protect our hearts, we alienate ourselves from the world. We stick to limited notions of who we are, categorizing existence into conceptual frameworks. We water the seeds of suffering in ourselves, which harm everyone around us. Rather than moving toward what is true, we resist what is unpleasant. We cling to our expectations and suffer through our ignorance, attachment, and aversion.

“It seems that we do attack our own image continually and usually that image appears to be ‘out there.’ We want to blame men or we want to blame women or we want to blame white people or black people, or we want to blame politicians or the police; we want to blame somebody. There’s some tendency to always put it out there, even if ‘out there’ is our own body. Instead of working with, there is the tendency to struggle against. As a result, we become alienated. Then we take the wrong medicine for our illness by armoring ourselves in all these different ways, somehow not getting back to the soft spot.” (Chödrön, Pema)

We are not separate from nature. We are not separate from other beings. Rather than pushing others away, we can share who we are, even from our presence alone. We often want to escape from being aware of who we are, of where we are, distracting ourselves with TV and drugs and jobs and sex. We miss the sacredness of our ordinary experience when we look outside ourselves for happiness, truth, permanence, and security.

“Because we escape, we keep missing being right here, being right on the dot. We keep missing the moment we’re in. Yet if we can experience the moment we’re in, we discover that it is unique, precious, and completely fresh. It never happens twice. One can appreciate and celebrate each moment — there’s nothing more sacred. There’s nothing more vast or absolute. In fact, there’s nothing more!” (Chödrön, Pema)

We begin to heal when we stop hiding from ourselves. When we are right here, right now, we are no longer resisting our confusion, our fear, our pain. Our tendency is to cling to certainty while hiding from uncertainty. We waste so many years of our lives running after achievements and rewards and goals, never feeling entirely satisfied.

“This moving away from comfort and security, this stepping out into what is unknown, uncharted, and shaky — that’s called enlightenment, liberation.” (Chödrön, Pema)

We do not have to eliminate our thoughts and feelings and perceptions. We can accept them as they are and then let them go. Trungpa Rinpoche said, “Good and bad, happy and sad, all thoughts vanish into emptiness like the imprint of a bird in the sky.”

We can kindly be with our vulnerabilities. As we learn more, we open up more. Life is a dance, an ever-changing movement. We are “willing to give, willing to open, willing not to hold back. It is described as letting go of holding on to yourself, letting your stronghold of ego go. Instead of collecting things for yourself, you open and give them away.” (Chödrön, Pema)

We can be gentle with ourselves. We can be curious about the moment we’re in. Our maturity comes from being with what is unfolding, while releasing it. Giving without holding on. We don’t have to judge ourselves as winners or losers, right or wrong, good or bad. Our practice is to be ourselves completely.

“The truth sinks in like rain into very hard earth. The rain is very gentle, and we soften up slowly at our own speed. But when that happens, something has fundamentally changed in us. That hard earth has softened. It doesn’t seem to happen by trying to get it or capture it. It happens by letting go; it happens by relaxing your mind, and it happens by the aspiration and the longing to want to communicate with yourself and others. Each of us finds our own way.” (Chödrön, Pema)

Your True Home: The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh

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Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, poet, scholar, and peace activist. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Your True Home: The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh” is a collection of his teachings for 365 days. Each of his passages, while short and simple, are meant to be studied with care. For those who practice mindfulness and compassion, “Your True Home” is a book of transformation.


Often when we see people, we don’t really see them. When we hear people, we don’t really hear them. We only know of others through our prejudices, preconceptions, and projections. Our ideas limit us to the ideas themselves, but not to other possibilities. When we are filled with beliefs, opinions and views, we are no longer here.

We must be as still as a lake before a white mountain. When we are upset, we can watch our upset. When we are sad, we can watch our sadness. Instead of reacting, we can notice our breathing, our minds, our bodies, our environments. Then we can be as still as a lake and as solid as a mountain.


We can be mindful of our minds.

We can watch our thoughts and feelings. Coming and going, coming and going.

They pass through us like clouds.

We can look at our perceptions without getting caught up in them. Our minds can open to what is here. Instead of assuming that we know all the answers, we can question ourselves. “Is my perception really true? Do my ideas encompass the entire universe or are they only a fraction of what is happening?” Instead of judging others, we can look within ourselves compassionately. There is no resistance or holding on, only letting go.


When we look into the conditions that make us who we are, we find that we are not separate. We are interwoven in the changing cosmos. We cannot exist on earth without our ancestors. Our descendants cannot exist without us either. We are dependent on the air, the water, the sun. We are dependent on the plants, the trees, the soil beneath our feet. Without the clouds, there would be no rain. Without the rain, there would be no plants. Without the plants, we cannot be here.

There is no birth, no death. Only a continuation of ourselves in another form.


Life is full of suffering, but it is also full of wonder. In our distracted society, we often forget about the simple joys of being on this planet. We can step on the grass and brush past the silky petals of blue flowers. We can sigh with the breeze. We can look up at the trees as they sway together in silence.


We can drive, eat, wash the dishes, and go to the bathroom mindfully. Everything can be a spiritual practice when we are aware enough to notice. From mindfulness, we develop concentration. From concentration, we gain insight. There is no wasted moment.


When we look up at the mountain, we see ourselves. When we look at ourselves, we see the mountain. There is no mountain without our perception, but no perception without the mountain. Both depend on the other to inter-be.


When we trap ourselves in categorizations, we forget our humanity. Then we can only see a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a male, a female, a Republican, a Democrat, a boss, an employee, a father, a daughter, and so on, without looking any deeper. These may be important parts of our identities, but they are not all of who we are. When we can peel away these labels, we can recognize each other as human beings.


We must be careful about what we consume. This doesn’t only apply to what we eat and drink, but to the music we listen to, the television we watch, the newspapers we read, who we spend our time with, and what thoughts we focus on. There are negative influences all around us. We don’t need to consume despair, hatred, fear, and violence. We don’t need to seek out the things that harm us. We can look for what heals us, what nourishes us, what helps us to awaken.

We can help to relieve other people’s suffering as well. If someone has a wrong perception, we don’t need to punish them. We can listen to them deeply, show them compassion, care for them, practice loving speech with them. These simple actions can help us to form harmonious communities and remove discrimination.


Our ideas about our happiness are often obstacles to our happiness. We believe that we’ll be happy in the future when the conditions are sufficient enough, such as when we get a new promotion, when we buy an expensive car, when we get married to the perfect spouse, when we buy liquor on a Friday night, when we hold a diploma in our hands. Our desire for happiness removes us from the present moment. We fear losing what we have and want what we do not have, but do not realize that we are alive now.

Even if we do gain what we desire, it never lasts, and our reality is never the same as our expectations. To be truly happy, we have to let go of our ideas of happiness. We have nothing to attain but ourselves.


We can treat our in-breath and our out-breath with tenderness. In meditation, we are not straining to show how much we can endure from our sitting. We are caring for ourselves as if we are holding a baby in our arms. We cradle our anger and happiness and fear and disappointment. We are lovingly aware of our joys and sorrows.


We don’t need to meditate in a cave or on a mountain top. There is nothing to attain. We already are who we want to be in the future, but do not realize it. There is nothing lacking in us. When we can be at peace in the present moment, feeling the warmth of sun on our skin, tasting the juice of an apple, listening to the birds in the leaves, we have already arrived. Nirvana is nothing more than the sound of rain.

What is Hope?

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“If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, that there are opportunities to change things, then there is a possibility that you can contribute to making a better world.”

Noam Chomsky

Hope is an expectation of a positive outcome. To be hopeful is to be confident, to be optimistic. It is to desire a favorable event and believe in its likelihood. It is to see the possibilities for future change.

Charles R. Snyder, an American psychologist who specialized in the study of Positive Psychology, developed Hope Theory. For Snyder, three interrelated elements comprise the idea of hope: goals, pathways, and agency.

Hopeful people use different pathways to reach their goals. They are realistic about the challenges they face, motivated to overcome them. After training in Hope Theory, individuals develop practical plans, set deadlines, and visualize how they can succeed. 

Hope can be beneficial when it motivates people to be in the right mindset to achieve their goals. Even when negative situations happen, a hopeful person can examine what they can do and can’t do, before acting on what is possible.

Hope can be dangerous, however, when beliefs about positive outcomes are too unrealistic. People may imagine a perfect future, but if their thinking is deluded or fallacious, they will suffer when confronted with real barriers.

Pragmatic optimism, however, can often be valuable. Robert Anton Wilson, agnostic philosopher and author, once said in Eye in the Triangle: “Optimistic people outlive pessimistic people consistently if you compare them by sex, by eating habits, by diet, by lifestyle, by race, by all sorts of things. The optimists live longer. Also, optimists have more fun. And besides, maybe things are going to turn out okay, in which case, the pessimists are killing themselves and being miserable for no good reason at all. And the final reason is that if everything is going to turn out terribly, the optimists are having more fun before the final tragedy comes.”

Wilson wrote that optimists look for possibilities, while pessimists are blind to them. Pessimists have concluded that there are no more solutions, even when other options are present. For Robert Anton Wilson, intelligence is the ability to “receive, decode and transmit information efficiently.” To be stupid is to block information from coming in. Those who ignore, or resist, or deny the possibilities of life cannot function efficiently. They are stuck in robotic reality-tunnels.

Buddhists look at hope in another sense. People often strive to do more, to be more. They want to achieve, achieve, achieve. They believe that they will finally be happy only after they drive around in a fancy convertible, get promoted to office manager, marry, raise children, read the canon of Western literature, win a game, or whatever else they can think up. Once they get what they desire, they desire more, while fearing that they will lose what they have. As they possess more, they still feel unfulfilled. They’re often disappointed when what they strived for didn’t bring them lasting satisfaction.

Ordinary hope is unskillful. People crave what they do not have. They cling to abstractions of happiness, unable to let go. They expect to be a certain way, to produce a certain result, to maintain a certain persona, but are secretly afraid of uncertainty and impermanence.

For people to be honest with themselves, they must first be mindful of what they can and can’t change. For Oren Jay Sofer, author of Say What You Mean: A Mindful Approach to Nonviolent Communication, “The wisdom of equanimity understands that we choose neither the circumstances of our life, nor the results of our actions. Both are beyond our control. What we can choose is how we relate, and how we respond.”

To accept what is happening in the present moment is to be alive. There is no denial, no resistance. Through awareness, people can transform themselves. They can look at the possibilities of their choices and how those choices will impact the world.

Those who practice the Dhamma are hopeful. They are confident that they are walking the path toward liberation. Rather than attaching themselves to dualistic ideas of good and bad, right and wrong, success and failure, they accept the fleeting nature of the world. They’re mindful of each moment, guided by wisdom and compassion.

In Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, Thich Nhat Hanh wrote that “Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”

Those who endure hardships often find value in hope. Even when they are subject to abuse, injustice and death, they remember the small kindnesses of life. They desire a better future for themselves and those they care about. A path may not exist for them yet, but they believe that there is more, much more, than what is known.

Albert Camus, existentialist philosopher and author, wrote a book called The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays. In it, he said that people look for purpose in an indifferent and chaotic universe. They’re often confronted with the absurdity of their own existence, desperate for an objective meaning that doesn’t exist.

They can choose to commit suicide, but then, the point of their lives would only seem more absurd. They can refuse to examine and question and think for themselves, conforming to different belief-systems, which promise them answers. Through this second choice, they are surrendering their inner freedom for the dictates of others.

Camus proposed a third option after not being able to accept the former two. People are free to subjectively create their own meanings and values and purposes. While they have the tremendous freedom to choose, they are ultimately responsible for their choices.

Camus rejected the idea that people should have hope for an afterlife, but considered each person’s meanings (or lack thereof) to be made by them in each moment. When people prepare for another life after their death, but do not embrace their fleeting time on earth, they minimize the value of their existence.

Hope should be highly personal for each individual. People cannot ignore the fact that they will change, that they will die, that they will pursue meaning in a universe, which is not objectively meaningful.

They must be aware of these underlying tensions. They must decide how they will live, who they will be, before they perish.

There is a close connection between hope and despair. When people avoid looking honestly at their suffering and seek only pleasure, they do not find happiness. Even those who have a lot of money and power are not immune. They can only transform themselves once they are aware of their suffering.

When people understand themselves as they are, they can cultivate compassion. Like a gardener, they can plant seeds of kindness, seeds of happiness, seeds of peace, in every moment. When they are compassionate toward themselves, they can be compassionate toward others.

Roshi Joan Halifax, hospice caregiver and Zen teacher and activist, wrote an essay called Yes We Can Have Hope. In it, she suggested that people can be wisely hopeful rather than unskillfully hopeful. Whereas ordinary hope is based on a person’s desires and expectations, wise hope develops from an acceptance of life.

Through this perspective, people can embrace the impermanence of their joys and sorrows. To be hopeful is not to deny reality, but to be fully alive, helping others to awaken out of their suffering.

Halifax said, “Wise hope doesn’t mean denying these realities. It means facing them, addressing them, and remembering what else is present, like the shifts in our values that recognize and move us to address suffering right now.”

In Letters From a Stoic, Seneca wrote his own advice about acceptance and choice. He had told Lucilius, the then procurator of Italy, that people should adapt themselves to the present rather than projecting their wishes too far into the future. To live for the future is to be anxious in expectation. “Fear keeps pace with hope” because people not only want to fulfill their desires, but fear not getting what they desire, and losing what they have.

Seneca cautioned against having too many desires. When a person limits their desires, however, they can still be hopeful. They are grateful for what they have been given, and appreciate who they are, while not craving what is unnecessary. Many people wish for more than they have, worried that their expectations won’t be fulfilled. They “suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”

Potential dangers may not have happened, but they fear that they will happen. They anticipate terrible futures so much that their anticipations become habits. Their minds exaggerate their sorrows. Every moment that they worry is a moment of lost time.

Seneca wrote in his thirteenth letter, On Groundless Fears, “It is likely that some troubles will befall us; but it is not a present fact. How often has the unexpected happened! How often has the expected never come to pass! And even though it is ordained to be, what does it avail to run out to meet your suffering? You will suffer soon enough, when it arrives; so look forward meanwhile to better things. What shall you gain by doing this? Time. There will be many happenings meanwhile which will serve to postpone, or end, or pass on to another person, the trials which are near or even in your very presence. A fire has opened the way to flight. Men have been let down softly by a catastrophe. Sometimes the sword has been checked even at the victim’s throat. Men have survived their own executioners. Even bad fortune is fickle. Perhaps it will come, perhaps not; in the meantime it is not. So look forward to better things.”

Seneca advised that people should not worry about what hasn’t happened or will not likely happen. Misfortunes don’t always last or remain misfortunes. Sometimes the unexpected happens too. Rather than despairing, individuals can meditate on what choices are available and then act wisely. When people indulge their hearts on fears of the future, they prevent themselves from living.

The only way to live is in the present. Tomorrow has no meaning except in the eternal now. Pasts and futures are abstractions, but people are conditioned to live for conceptualizations of time, until they can’t relate anymore to the time they’re in.

In the Money and Materialism section of Just So, Alan Watts lectured, “So only people who live in proper relationship with the material present have any use for making any plans at all, because then if the plans work out, they’re actually capable of enjoying them. But if you aren’t fully here and your mind is always off somewhere else, you’ll remain starved and always rushing to get someplace else. And there’s nowhere to go except here.”

“Our schools don’t prepare us to relate to the material present. Instead, we’re educated to become bureaucrats, accountants, lawyers, and doctors, who are all good at making money, which is said to be incredibly important. And the children who aren’t considered fit for the college education that these careers require are encouraged to take reluctantly offered courses in trades and manual skills. You hear these jokes about being able to receive your bachelor’s degree in basket weaving from any American university, but that would actually be an improvement on our current state of affairs. The larger point is that we are encouraged to become obsessed with the life of abstractions, with problems of status, and with problems of the world as symbolized rather than the world to be symbolized. This explains our hang-ups when it comes to money. When it comes down to it, most of us are incapable of relating directly to physical existence at all.”

It is easy to mistake the finger for the moon. The finger may point the way, but it doesn’t cast an illumination. In order for life to reveal itself, people must let go of what they think they know. They can only tend to the future when they tend to each moment. While they may forget, their practice is to return to life, again and again.


Sources:

“Albert Camus (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, plato.stanford.edu/entries/camus/.

Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus And Other Essays. Vintage, 2012.

Halifax, Joan. “Yes, We Can Have Hope.” Lion’s Roar, 20 Jan. 2021, www.lionsroar.com/yes-we-can-have-hope/.

Hạnh, Nhất, and Thich N. Hanh. Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life. Bantam, 1992.

“Hope (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, plato.stanford.edu/entries/hope/.

Seneca. Letters from a Stoic: Epistulae Morales Ad Lucilium. Penguin UK, 2004.

Snyder, C.R. Psychology of Hope: You Can Get Here from There. Simon & Schuster, 2010.

Watts, Alan. Just So: Money, Materialism, and the Ineffable, Intelligent Universe. Sounds True, 2020.

Wilson, Robert A. “The Eye in the Triangle.” YouTube, 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=_p5oHdKZNBA. Accessed 2021.

Yeshe, Ayya. “Ask the Teachers: What is the Buddhist View of Hope?” Lion’s Roar, 11 Aug. 2020, www.lionsroar.com/ask-the-teachers-what-is-the-buddhist-view-of-hope/.


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Meditation for You and Me

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“In [meditation] leave your front door and back door open. Let thoughts come and go. Just don’t serve them tea.”

— Shunryu Suzuki

When we first begin our meditation practice, we often want to meditate to attain a goal. That goal may be happiness, inner-peace, well-being, security, health, or whatever else our minds can conjure up. Then we may practice for a few minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even months, consistently and inconsistently, until our practice drops off.

Many people expect to gain immediate results, chasing ideas of enlightenment or permanent happiness. They may even have experienced a sense of peace in the past, now clinging to the idea of peace in every session. When they don’t get what they want, or get what they don’t want, they don’t practice as much as before. Some people quit entirely.

Overtime, meditating only for our own happiness feels a little self-centered. As our practice deepens, however, we soon begin to realize that our happiness will not last. Our security will not last either. Our grasping after ideas will only make us suffer more. Only when we can let go of these ideas can we be open to our joy and sorrow.

Our peace cannot be peace if it is only for ourselves.

There is no genuine happiness in our lives unless we work for the happiness of others.

What underlies all Buddhist teachings is the wish for all beings to be free of suffering.

This is because we aren’t separate from our environment. From other living creatures.

It is one thing to know this intellectually, but quite another thing to experience it directly.

Through our meditation practice, we can learn to see what is. Over and over again.

Even if we forget ourselves — lost in our daydreams and distractions — we can return to where we are.

Whenever we experience a thought, a feeling, or sensation, we can let it come and go. There is no need to follow it. We don’t have to get caught up in our stories, our dramas, our complex thought-patterns.

We can treat our inner-processes like guests. They can come inside, walk round in our house, and then leave. While we’re not inviting them to stay forever, we don’t need to kick them out the backdoor, or lock them in the basement.

It is important to allow space into our practice. Our space can embrace our anger, sadness, anxiety, and fear — without letting these states take over. We can lovingly be aware of when we are feeling tight in our chest, cramping, on the verge of crying, breathing shallowly, and so on. There is no shame in how we think and feel and sense. We don’t have to shut ourselves down, repressing who we are, and we don’t have to identify with every emotion that arises.

As Tsoknyi Rinpoche wrote in How Mindfulness Works, “We also gradually cut through the habit of identifying with each emotional wave that passes through our awareness. We can be angry, jealous, or scared without having to act on those emotions or let them take over our lives. We can experience joy or love without becoming attached to the object that we think is the cause of our joy. All too often, the emotions we experience, along with the thoughts and behaviors that accompany them, become part of our internal and social story lines. Anger, anxiety, jealousy, fear, and other emotions become part of who we believe we are, creating what I would call a ‘greasy’ residue, like the oily stuff left on a plate after eating greasy food. If that residue is left on the plate, eventually everything served on that plate starts to taste alike; bits of food start to accumulate too, stuck to layers and layers of greasy residue. All in all, a very unhealthy situation!”

Through our meditation, we can see ourselves as we are: human. When we create space in our lives, in that space, there is freedom. Our aliveness comes from being intimately connected to each moment, not judging, not condemning, but being open to the mystery. What comes is not expected to stay forever. That includes our heartbreaks, our friends, our professions, our physical capabilities, our memories.

We don’t own our life as if we owned a bank account.

We are life itself.

An energetic process, transforming. We are passing through “whatever this is” as visitors.

We cannot take our time with us.

We cannot stop ourselves from growing old, sick, and dying.

Every moment is so precious. Only we forget.

Meditation helps us to realize that we are interconnected with everything in this universe. In all our infinite relationships, there is no true division. We create division in our discriminating minds, in our judgements and opinions, in our intellectualization.

Our daily practice lets us be more aware. We start to feel a sense of responsibility, because we see another person’s joy and sorrow within ourselves. As we suffer, they suffer. As we wish for peace, they wish for peace. When we harm the world, we harm ourselves, when we harm ourselves, we harm the world. Meditation is a way for us to return to who we are, and where we are, in the miracle of each moment.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 22

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22

Hulk to be whole.

Bend to be straight.

Empty to be filled.

Wear down to be renewed.

Reduce to gain.

Excess confuses.

Therefore, the sage embraces the one,

And is an example to the world.

He does not show off, therefore he shines.

He does not justify himself, therefore he is revered.

He does not boast, therefore he is honored.

He does not praise himself, therefore he remains.

Because he opposes no one,

No one in the world can oppose him.

The ancients said:

Hulk to be whole.

Are these just empty words?

Indeed, he shall remain whole.

When you compare yourself to another person, you are putting that person’s head higher than your own. Comparisons often make you feel that you are not enough. You become envious of those who have succeeded, while never feeling fully satisfied with what you do have.

Comparisons create divisions within you. Those divisions are based on your own ideas of what’s worthy and unworthy, praiseworthy and blameworthy. They are not reality, but rather, develop into a narrow view of what reality is.

You’ve been conditioned to compare. You’ve been told that you must be smarter, stronger, more attractive, more powerful than others, to gain rewards and avoid punishments.

You fear that you will lose what you have while desiring to gain more.

More is never enough. You are like one of the hungry ghosts: human-like creatures with sagging bellies and necks as thin as needles. While they ravenously desire more and more, they can never satisfy their cravings, suffering from their own greed.

Willard and Marguerite Beecher once wrote in Beyond Success and Failure, “Comparison breeds fear, and fear breeds competition and one-upmanship. We believe our safety depends on killing off the one above us by outrunning him at his own game. We have no time to enjoy any game of our own making lest we lost ground in our race against others for status and preferment. And we may not rest lest those below us steal ahead in the night when we are not aware. The higher we rise, the greater will be our fear of failing. And so we are fearful regardless of whether we win or lose the daily skirmishes.”

Comparison reinforces your fear of not being enough, not having enough, not being worthy enough, not doing enough, and so on. When you are afraid, you will boast and criticize, while feeling a sense of inadequacy. Only when you‘re present can you be free of possessiveness.

When you compare, you fight for an illusion of superiority, while looking over your shoulder for any threats. You know that your accomplishments and rewards are only temporary. They will never satisfy you for long and will fade away.

Eventually, someone who is smarter, more talented, younger, and so on, will come along and beat you at your own game. Habitual comparison makes you feel weaker, emptier, lonelier. It is a feeling of greed and impoverishment. It degrades you overtime.

When you follow the way, you do not need to blame and praise. There is no need prove how superior you are to others when you are able to be yourself. To follow the way is to adapt to the nature of what is, and to walk each step mindfully, open to a mystery not put into words.

Good Medicine: How to Turn Pain Into Compassion with Tonglen Meditation

We are often caught in a dualistic trap of desire, aversion, and ignorance. We make judgements about life, categorizing events as good or bad, pleasurable or painful, right or wrong, moral or immoral.

We desire what seems attractive and pleasurable, while we avoid or resist suffering, pain, distress, confusion, uncertainty, and hurt.

Then we ignore what doesn’t stimulate us, what seems uninteresting and boring. In many cases, we ignore what is too hard and painful to accept. Distracting our minds from what is.

Through tonglen practice, we can change our relationship to desire and aversion and ignorance.

Rather than being averse to pain, clinging to comfort, or ignoring what we don’t like, we can be mindful of ourselves, of all the energy in our bodies, without judgement, without attachment.

We can work with our suffering through being present. Instead of categorizing experience as good and bad, right and wrong, pleasurable and painful, we can simply be with what is.

When we drop our storylines, we can become friends with our pain and not cling to fleeting pleasures.

Then we can transform ourselves from our awareness of a changing, nuanced life.

We can inhale our suffering and exhale our joy. As we breathe, we can wish others to feel our joy and to not feel our suffering.

Rather than hiding from our sorrow and pain, we can directly engage with it—not in following the storylines of our sorrow and pain, or in justifying why we feel or think in a given way, but in seeing the energy behind everything.

When we look into ourselves with honesty and compassion, we can extend our view to others.

It is so easy to believe that we are the only ones who feel anger and pain, fear and depression, and so on, but we are not alone. Other people feel like us too.

Rather than reinforcing old habitual patterns of alienation and isolation, we can remind ourselves that we are all human and dependent on each other.

When we feel sadness, we can connect to the sadness of others, when we feel happy, we can connect to the happiness of others.

Our lives are the perfect material for our compassion. The more we focus on our patience, the more we realize how impatient we are. The more we focus on our anger, the more we discover how often we become angry. Every moment is a teacher, helping us to become better humans.

When we breathe in, we can imagine ourselves inhaling thickness, darkness, heat, heaviness, claustrophobia, or pain.

When we breathe out, we can release all that dark energy, transforming it into cool, bright light.

We can take in what is hard and let it go.

We can use our friends, our family, our troublesome associates, anyone, as material for our practice.

When we suffer, we can wish for others to not suffer as we are suffering. When we feel happiness, we can wish for others to feel happiness as we do. Through our practice, we can compassionately connect to all of life.

From “taking and sending,” we can awaken our compassion.

Instead of hiding from our suffering, we can learn to embrace it. We can visualize ourselves taking in pain, then sending out tenderness and care.

We can take in what is dark and send out the light. Through this daily practice, we will soon find that the distinction between what is given and what is taken, the inner and outer, life and death, good and evil, blurs.

For more on tonglen practice:

https://youtu.be/-x95ltQP8qQ

Freedom From the Known (reflections)

Freedom From the Known (reflections)

You’re not just a separate creature that lives “in” this universe for a fleeting time. You’re not merely a “part” of this universe, apart from the indescribable processes of life and death. You are this universe. Interwoven in the cosmos.

Without spacetime, without the evolutionary line of your ancestors to you, without the soil, rivers, and wind, without the sun and flowers and rain, you would not be here. They are in you.

You do not exist as a single identity, or ego, separate from everything and everyone else. Your existence is changing, transforming in its infinite relationships, right now.

With sensitivity, you can watch interdependent relationships unfold.

They are nuanced and spontaneous, arising, passing, arising, passing.

You are like a wave, calming and crashing and sparkling with light on shadows, until merging back to an endless sea.


There is no sensitivity in ideas of the past. The past is dead and you confuse yourself by carrying around its bones. Your mind is often dulled of its aliveness because it is dominated by the past.

When you lose your sensitivity, you grind out your days with unthinking habits like overeating, smoking, dwelling on your mistakes, worrying, and so on.

You must intimately know this moment. How can you know this moment when you’re filled with opinions, judgements, and values?

When you are judging, concerned with right and wrong, agreeing, disagreeing, comparing, and so on, you’re focused on a fixed interpretation of life. Instead of seeing clearly, you are projecting, distorting, manipulating reality.

The moment that you think you know who you are, you are limited by your view of yourself, and are no longer learning.

It is hard to learn, to see clearly, to be fully alive, because you have been conditioned from language, education, culture, art, politics, religion, family, custom, past experiences. You have been trained to respond in conditioned ways, to think robotically.

Most of us don’t realize we’re conditioned until there is a great disturbance in our lives. Whether from political or economic hardships, in our families or professions, through our relationships with others and within ourselves, we become disturbed.

What can we do? Can we live with so much suffering and confusion and uncertainty?

A lot of people avoid dealing with their sorrows, their sufferings, their fears of what is uncertain. They join a new group, subscribe to an ideology, shout at others, take drugs, gamble, check their social media accounts, or watch TV. They distract themselves all day with amusements.

Instead of being present with their fears and uncertainties and anxieties, they hide from them, avoid them, numb themselves from them. Their fears won’t go away, but they have desensitized themselves so much that they don’t feel alive anymore.

You must be totally aware to understand. Often you are one type of person at the office and another with friends. You talk differently to yourself than you do with your coworkers. You act out so many different roles every day.

You divide your consciousness and create conflict with those divisions, blocking out one part of yourself for another, aware of one aspect of existence and not another.

When you do try to understand yourself, you categorize and analyze and examine, spending weeks and months and years on petty personal dramas. But still, you are no further along to enlightenment.

If you could just be aware for a moment, sensitive to all of life, to trees and wind and birds and rivers and the beating of your heart, to inner and outer energies changing without division, without any purpose or method or conclusion, then you will see immediately who you are.

You can know life more deeply without the need to compare deep to shallow, right to wrong, good to bad.

All too often, you cannot see what is, what exists beyond all symbols, because you’re trapped in conditioned states of thinking, comparing, judging, and deciding.

You narrowly perceive, trained into a rigid way of being after a lifetime of chasing after pleasure, and avoiding pain, and fearing what you don’t understand.

Can you be here without trying to be elsewhere? With choiceless awareness, you can begin to see the totality of life. There is nothing to get and no reward, except for what is happening. If you can truly be without any expectation, letting what comes come until it passes away, then you will know joy.

When you seek out pleasure, to repeat an experience of the past, you will soon know pain. Pain is the shadow of pleasure. One follows the other.

When you have what you want, you often wish to hold onto it forever and fear losing it. If someone has what you don’t have, and you want what they have, then you eventually become envious and bitter.

By clinging to your memories of pleasure, you’re in conflict with yourself. Your desire to keep something or someone, to appear in a favorable way, to not lose what you already have, eventually leads you into suffering.

To be present is to no longer be afraid of losing what you desire. You are not afraid when you are just watching yourself be. At the back of your mind, however, you think about the past and future. You are scared of losing your job, your status, your kids, your health, your life. Can you watch all these fears without trying to justify them?

Do the words, images, and associations to past memories disturb you so much? Look behind the symbols at the undercurrent of energy. What is actually happening to you in reality and what is only thought, feeling, and memory?

Thoughts are not realities. For example, you may have gotten sick a few years ago. Now that you are well, you fear becoming sick again.

Your resistance to sickness is a thought, not what is happening within your body at the moment. At the moment, you are fine. Instead of being aware of how you are and tending to yourself with compassion and joy, you get lost in fears about losing your health. There is a conflict between what you think and what is. You ignore what is and dwell on ideas, which are fixed symbols. The more you think, the more you suffer about non-realities that are no longer there or not there in the future, blocking yourself to all of life.

Can you look at fear without dissecting it? Can you see fear without having to control or analyze it, without having to summon courage, without directing your mind to specific things that you are afraid of? Directly look at fear without making it intellectual. Know fear without hiding, rationalizing, trying to take it apart.

You are not apart from fear. There is no fear and then you, an observer of fear. There is only, when you notice subtly enough, fear, which is you.

Then your awareness of fear — without you trying to conclude or explain what fear is — dissolves it.

Fear is not fear alone. Fear interrelates with anxiety, hatred, jealousy, violence, and many similar states.

How can a person find peace in a world writhing with war, class conflict, murder, starvation, with many forms of injustice, perpetuated throughout the centuries?

Violence doesn’t merely stop at the events. that surround you but it is within you as well.

Violence is not just to maim or kill another person. It is a harsh word, jealousy over a friend’s accomplishments, discrimination, obeying an authority out of fear.

When you divide yourself from others and refuse to see the humanity in them, you’re being violent. All too often, you separate yourself through belief and thought. You see yourself as superior, inferior, or both. You blame and judge, rather than being present, listening deeply, and learning.

If you want to transcend violence, you cannot deny, hide, or distract from the violence within. You must be intimately aware of your anger and sadness and jealousy and anxiety and fear, neither justifying nor condemning these states.

All too often, you strive for ideals of non-violence. You tell yourself that you must be peaceful rather than violent, calm rather than angry, and so on. You think about the best ideological systems to obey to become a better person and blame others for failing to follow along.

You create dualities of good and bad, right and wrong, judging and forming opinions.

You try to be better daily. You prepare so much to be a good person because you have been taught to compare, analyze, judge, and think about every situation.

Yet there is no trying. There is only what is peaceful and what is not peaceful. Many holy books have been filled with words about non-violence for centuries and people are still angry, jealous, greedy, hateful, and so on.

When you claim that you believe in the ideals of peace, but are not peaceful within or in relationship to the world, you’re acting hypocritically.

When you separate, when you condemn others while justifying your righteousness, you’re trapped. You have not learned how to see what is.

Most people are not actually with each other. They form ideas and then act on the nuanced relationships between those ideas. They live on images, on symbols, rather than being with someone in the present. The more they cling to ideas, the more they live in a universe of abstraction.

You must be able to see totally. It is one thing to intellectually understand, to examine yourself under an analysis of symbols, but is quite another thing to completely see, to be aware of what happens within you.

You are never free until you can see what you depend on, what causes you to suffer, what brings you joy, without trying to hide or deny these things within yourself. From relationship — to yourself, to the group, to society, to all of life interconnected in the universe — you can be aware.

Insights of the Dhammapada

A mind of peace will create peace. A mind of conflict will create conflict.

Holding on to past slights, injustices, and insults will keep them alive within.

Letting go of those things will release the feelings of hatred, resentment, and bitterness.

A mind lazy with indulgences will become a slave to desire and temptation. A disciplined mind will not be affected by the greatest temptations.

Rather than living through the extremes of life, behave with open honesty, moderation, and mindfulness.

Instead of directing anger and vengeance at what one hates, loving kindness will dissolve those feelings and free one’s heart.

An undisciplined mind is consumed with fleeting pleasures, distracted by thoughts, concerned with what somebody has said or done, what’s happening around them, and so on.

The disciplined mind is mindful, aware of what’s within. The undisciplined mind is neglectful, unaware.

The disciplined mind is alive while the undisciplined mind is one of the living dead.

While the restless person seeks greater and greater pleasures, never satisfied with what they have and complaining about what they don’t have, those who are virtuous spread their message with right speech, right action, right livelihood, etc.

“Just as a sweet-smelling lotus blooms

Beside the highway upon a heap of filth,

So does the disciple of the perfect Buddha

Rise above those bound blindly

To the limitations of the world.”

A foolish person seeks status, power over others, a satisfaction of desires, craving after something more. Fools act in a way that will bring grief, regret, and suffering to themselves and others. They may not know the consequences of their deeds until those deeds eventually consume them. They are untouched by wisdom because their minds are not wise.

Those who are wise act to bring joy and harmony to themselves and others. Wise people associate with other people who are better or equal to themselves. If they cannot find anyone, they walk their path alone.

Wisdom comes from self-mastery. In mastery, there is no clinging to comfort, discomfort, praise, blame. One controls one’s senses instead of being restlessly lost in desire.

It is better to speak one peaceful word than to speak a thousand vain verses. It’s better to live in awareness for one day than to dwell forever in ignorance.

Those who commit wicked deeds may enjoy themselves until they intimately learn what their deeds have led to and what they have become as a result of their immorality.

Don’t underestimate how small choices can shape a person’s character. Just as a pot can fill, drop by drop, one can become good or bad, moral or immoral, overtime.

People who use harsh words will come to regret them. An individual must consider their own feelings and those of others. He or she should empathize with others and realize that one feels fear and anger and sadness as much as every other human. If one continues on the unethical path, one will find pain, loss, regret, grief, and the unwholesome results of their actions.

A person’s life is transitory. Body fragile, decaying overtime until death. Do not cry for a misspent youth, regretting what should have been. Treat the world with loving-kindness instead.

“Unwholesome action, hurting self, comes easily. Wholesome action, healing self, takes effort.”

To be unethical is to bring forth suffering. The foolish mock the wise for their moral teachings, while ignorant of the good and lost in wrong views. Nobody can be good for anyone else. It is up to each person to act righteously. They hold the freedom and responsibility alone.

Among the liars, be honest. Among the stingy, be generous. Practice loving-kindness with an angry person. Don’t worry about criticism or praise or the reputation of others. Always show moderation in speech and action.

Master mind-body.

It is easy to find faults in others and hide them in oneself. It is easy to be greedy and envious and bitter, comparing and judging. It’s far more difficult to live the path of peace, honesty, self-control.

Those who speak beautifully or who look pretty aren’t attractive if they are greedy, angry, and ignorant. An old man is not an elder simply through advanced age either. Only from truthfulness, loving-kindness, generosity, and non-attachment, one is truly attractive and wise.

Look deeply into the transitory nature of life. Understand the inevitability of death. Don’t cling to any ideas of eternalism or nihilism. Meditate to find a refuge within.

Now is the time to be the truth of living.

Don’t postpone being righteous anymore.

Be simple and clear. Let go of the past, let go of the present, let go of the future. Only meditate with what can be controlled in every moment: mind, speech, actions. Build confidence, meditative absorption, insight and mindfulness and right effort. Choose a path that is ethical and not something that promotes greed and restlessness, ignorance and anger.

The Art of Living (review)

As your mind-body stills, you begin to see clearly. Instead of “you” watching the rain drop, there is only rain dropping. Rather than a separate you doing the action of “watching” the rain, there is the splash, splash, splash.

With mindfulness, everything comes together in harmony.

Breathing in, breathing out. Like a bow sliding across a violin in one slow hum, you are continuous, open to the sound.

You are not separate from the rest of life. You inter-are. You are relations. A flower cannot bloom without being connected with non-flower elements like the soil beneath it or the sun above it. For the petals of a rose to glisten with dew, there needed to first be a Big Bang. Conditions before and at the present moment of the flower’s existence helped that flower to be. And when that flower wilts back into the old earth, another will take its place. Energy cannot be created nor destroyed, only transformed.

Just like the flower, you are made up of non-you parts. You cannot exist without the oxygen you breathe or your ancestors or the gravity of the earth. You cannot exist without clean water from the rivers or from animals that roamed the land or from the clouds that floated to become the rain. There is no you separate from everything else.

You cannot step into the same river twice, as Heraclitus said. You change in every moment, from how you feel and think, from your body aging, from billions of neurons firing in different sequences inside your brain. You are not the same person you were when you were five or fifteen or eighty. You may feel the same, identify as one separate person, but you are undergoing a transformation every moment. You are dying and being reborn. Your environment is changing as you change, from the cores of dying stars billions of years ago to the thoughts swimming through your head to the glaciers melting and affecting the temperature that warms your skin.

Your thoughts, perceptions, and feelings are changing. Don’t attach yourself to one view of life and claim that to be the best view. If you cling to a belief and cannot adapt to what’s happening around you, within you, in the present, you will suffer.

What’s happening around and within you are not so separate either. You are the lives you have influenced, the soil you have cultivated to grow your crops, the ancestors who have survived for you to exist, the descendants who will mature after you have decomposed in a grave.

You are the sun and water and the trees and moon. Without them, there is no you.

Your awareness of the non-you elements that make up you can help you to see the world beyond your identity. With present awareness, you don’t have to hold onto dogmatic beliefs and judgements about everything outside you, arguing, finding disagreements with others. Feeling you are alone, holding onto your views with rigidity, will cause more suffering to you and everyone else. It’s up to you to be kind, compassionate, and loving, each and every moment.

Every moment is a chance for you to deepen your practice. Talking about philosophy is not enough. Your life is your message. Your teaching. If you are kind, mindful and full of generosity, you will influence everyone with those lessons. They are the continuation of you. Your practice becomes a practice not only for you but for your children, grandchildren, peers, and the rest of your community.

When you think of yourself as a separate entity from the rest of the world, you try to run from the world. You seek pleasure and avoid pain. You look for the absolute answers to the mystery of existence. You hide from unpleasant truths. Rather than hiding from what you don’t like or craving an abstract notion of the ultimate, look inside yourself. See yourself in the world just as the world is seen in you. You are the blood in your body and the stars in your blood. You don’t have to climb a high mountain to find what is already here. You only need to see.

If you walk somewhere everyday, do you see the pink pedals falling from the tree? Do notice how the breeze gently lands on your skin? Do you feel your breath rising inside you as you step on the soft soil? Look for the teachings that are already intimately a part of you. There is more wisdom in a leaf crumbling than in a thousand words about impermanence.

When you walk, just walk. When you sit, just sit. When you breathe, just breathe. Rather than seeking to be important or achieve something, rather than thinking about the past or rushing to do the next thing, walk and sit and breathe and do whatever you are doing with freedom.

To be deeply in the present moment will ground you in what you are doing. From nourishing yourself, you nourish others. Through your own peace, you help the world with their suffering. You are not merely showing compassion, peace, kindness. You are those things.

As you live in the present moment, you begin to see the impermanence in all things. A flower blooming and then withering into the sun, a lover with wrinkles and age spots, your own stomach growing larger. Without impermanence, a child can never mature into an adult, an acorn can never rise high into a tree. For there to be birth, there has to be death. When you live with presence, every moment now is precious, a fleeting miracle.

If you truly feel impermanence, you do what you can to help in each moment, while knowing that nothing lasts.

Pain, suffering, anger, and envy will fade, just as joy and happiness will. Seemingly unstoppable empires will collapse as new societies develop. Everyone that you know will decompose into bones and then dust. New species will grow on your lost tombs.

When you directly know impermanence, you will be grateful for what you have while knowing that it won’t be yours forever.

There is no “you” that remains the same. Your perceptions, thoughts, moods, all change. From the cells in your body to bacteria that lives in your gut, from the wrinkles on your skin to the mingling of hormones in your blood stream, from neurons firing in your brain to each air molecule that you inhale, everything is transformation. You are not a fixed self, isolated from the rest of the universe. Every day, you are the same, but also different.

In life, you are in a garden. Every moment, you can water the seeds of injustice and suffering or the seeds of peace and love and compassion. You have freedom, but also responsibility. It is up to you to be a positive transformation for yourself and others. As you tend to yourself, you tend to others. You must be wise enough to select what seeds to water and what seeds to avoid. Often, in relationships, it’s easier to forget someone, to avoid them, to treat them apathetically, than to be in awe of them, to be loving and thankful, present and engaged with them. As the weeds grow in your garden and theirs, both of you feel your suffering. But it’s never too late to cut out the weeds, to plant seeds again.

Rather than chasing after ideas of love, success, money, sensual pleasures, and reputation, see these cravings for what they are. If you desire to taste the bait, biting down with craving, you will get hooked. Only by letting go, mindful of the causes of your suffering, will you be free.

Be aware of your fear of death, your need for intimacy with others, your compulsion to survive. You are connected with all of life on earth and must show compassion to your suffering while nourishing your love. Smile with gratitude for being alive. Your place is here, now.