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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Buddhist Perspective on Schadenfreude

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Image from beyondmeds.com

Definition of schadenfreude:

Enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others.

Satisfaction or pleasure over another’s misfortunes.

Feeling happiness when someone fails, makes a mistake, or is humiliated.

There are people who make us suffer. We often feel that our lives are more difficult, stressful, painful, and so on, because of what they have said and done. These people may harm those we care about, help our enemies, or support ideas we disagree with.

It is easy to wish those difficult people misfortune and then take pleasure when they fail. It is easy to water the seeds of judgement, comparison, and sadism.

We must be mindful of how we think and not reinforce ideas of division, resentment, bitterness, and discrimination. Instead we need to look at ourselves and see our own suffering, so that we can find compassion for everyone. Even those who do us harm.

When we take pleasure in another’s misfortune, we lower ourselves. We fall into darkness in our condemnation, in our judgement, of another’s suffering.

What kind of human beings are we when we wish suffering on others?

We may feel a temporary satisfaction over a false sense of revenge, but we are degrading ourselves. We are watering the seeds of hatred, separation, and envy. Instead we need to water the seeds of compassion and loving-kindness.

Instead of looking outward in comparison, we need to know ourselves intimately.

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

Stoic Philosophy: Fame and Popularity

Stoic Philosophy: Fame and Popularity

Which master do you serve: the fleeting approval of the multitude or your own integrity?


You may strive to be honored after your death. When you are dead, however, you will no longer be with the living and all that they say will not be heard by you.

Furthermore, you will not have any control over what the living speak about, even if they decide to speak about you.

If people do talk about you, how soon will their conversations shift from praise and blame to indifference?

Those who do remember you will also die. Their memories will fade with them. Their stories forever lost in time.

Your name may not even be as significant as the greatest humans from generations past who are now less than the whispers on lips.

Every sage and poet, king and slave, every lover and child and warrior and scientist, everyone who was born and breathed in the cool air, everyone from hundreds to thousands of years before, had perished into bones and dirt and shadows. Their lives were so fleeting, here, then gone.

Forgotten in unknown pasts.


Just because someone appears happier by being famous doesn’t mean that they are happy. Appearances of happiness are not happiness.

It is common for people to have a first impression of an event or a person. While the unwise take that impression to be true and make value judgements about it, the wise will use their reason to investigate why they felt a given way and whether their feeling was justified. After they’ve patiently evaluated their initial impression, they will let go of it, and then move on. Those who are unwise will cling to their impressions. They will desire what is external and uncontrollable, such as reputation and fame and power and money.

The wise will be present and focus on who they are and what they can change while the unwise will worry about the past and the future.


Fame is not worthwhile if it causes you to lose your dignity, self-respect, kindness, turning you into a hypocrite, coward, or tyrant.


Praise is a fickle pleasure. Applause is empty of meaning beyond a moment in infinity. Nothing lasts and everything is soon forgotten. Desiring fame is only a tiresome burden.


Don’t fall under the spell of vanity, believing that you are more important than others. If you are convinced of how special you are, then you are seduced away from your reason.

Seek to be a good person rather than seeking to be known as a good person. Everyone is connected as citizens of the world.


When you want to attain a higher social status, people will have power over you. You’ll be enslaved to their approval and disapproval.

Always be indifferent to praise and blame.

When praised, laugh internally at their silly words. When blamed or sneered at, don’t concern yourself with what you cannot control.


Before you talk about being a good person, be a good person. Do not let crowds seduce you away from your discipline, your virtue, your actions. You are responsible for the type of person you are. Master yourself rather than manipulating other people.

Stoic Philosophy: Epictetus on Control

Stoic Philosophy: Epictetus on Control

Epictetus was born as a slave in Ancient Greece. He became a prominent Stoic philosopher during the Roman Imperial Period, later influencing such people as Marcus Aurelius. Although he never wrote his teachings down, his pupil, Arrian, did.

His main works are the Enchiridion and the Discourses.


Some things are in our control while other things are not. We should focus on what is in our control.

Our desires and aversions, how we choose to think and act, our pursuits and goals and preferences, are in our control (to a degree).

What is not in our control are the bodies that we are born with, our reputation, old age, illness, and death.


When we try to control the things that are not in our control, we will suffer. We must look directly at what we can control and not burden ourselves with what is not in our control.


Our expectations are not life. We must mentally prepare for adversities while being content with what we have, not wishing for what we cannot control.


Other people’s opinions are their own. Instead of manipulating what they think about us, we should work on mastering our own virtue.

Let’s look at what is within our power and act wisely rather than looking at another person for our worth.


We are all born with different abilities, privileges, struggles. Instead of judging ourselves, let’s act out our roles with dignity.

While we didn’t choose to be born or to be placed under certain circumstances, we can choose our own attitudes and ideas and actions.


We should demonstrate our philosophy through how we live. Our true master is within us first.


We should never sacrifice our humanity for the fleeting approval of others.

It is easy to be seduced by what is external and uncontrollable, but in doing so, we may risk our own integrity.

If we compromise who we are for long enough, we may lose who we are forever.


Every difficulty is a question.

We must answer with how we live.


Spend time with those who help us to grow and avoid those who diminish us. Endure those who insult us with humor, humility, and kindness.

We don’t need to explain who we are to those who refuse to understand us. We only need to focus on what’s in our power, letting go of opinions and speculation and gossip.

We don’t need to talk about ourselves like we are important. There is no need for us to boast or blame. We can remain quiet, but when speaking, speak objectively.


Review what has happened at the end of each day. Investigate what we have done well and poorly. We can cultivate habits that are virtuous while remaining compassionate toward our mistakes.

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.

Becoming Whole: A Jungian Guide to Individuation (Book Review)

Individuation is a path of awakening, not a final stage or an idealized state. People transform from shedding their old skins. They undergo a continual metamorphosis or they decline in their refusal of dealing with realities. In individuation, one is conscious of living fully, aware of the unique patterns that run through their lives.

They grow from dealing with their personal struggles: illnesses, death, an underlying restlessness, emptiness. Something from within is calling for a change.

They will question themselves and their parents, teachers, friends, priests, and role models. Accepted wisdom doesn’t seem so wise anymore. They will be critical of their values, asking what love is, what violence is, what is true and false, whether the values that they’ve been taught are consistent, moral, or merely an illusion. They will dig at the turmoil of their existences, at what is meaningful, at what gives them a higher purpose.

Educational systems generally teach students to accumulate facts and ideas and the “right” types of belief. Students trained to build a body of knowledge, to test well, to question only what is acceptable to question.

Individuation isn’t about gathering more knowledge, but about letting go of old prejudices. It’s about cultivating wisdom through engaging in life fully, reflecting on experiences, and bringing what is learned into a new stage of living.

When people give up their roles as victims, when they can learn from and appreciate what is different rather than feel hostile toward outsiders, when they can “create an inner culture of questioning and seeking,” they’re living fully with their consciousness.

To do this, there first needs to be an acknowledgement of pain, suffering, illness, death, alienation, and so on. Rather than hiding or avoiding these aspects of life, in themselves and in others, they must be present to these realities.

It is hard to confront these ideas. People are often taught to function in acceptable ways and to shun what is deemed as wrong, from their families, cultures, and societies. Or they rebel from what they’ve been traditionally conditioned to accept and react negatively to what challenges them. What is perceived as unacceptable, what people refuse to identify with, is pushed into the shadow of their personalities.

It takes determination for a person to confront their complexes. People will usually resist what they consider to be taboo, unfavorable, or strange. Even though a complex can be a vessel for transformation, it’s easy to judge and complain and hide from unwanted feelings of anger, fear, guilt, and shame.

People refuse to see the same faults in themselves that they see in their enemies.

Negative complexes are painful to acknowledge. They can sidetrack one’s progress, embarrass or shame them, add to a present neurosis, or lead to physical troubles, if not worked on. Too much anger or fear, exaggerated feelings of self-righteousness, a judgmental attitude, are often signs of a complex.

Journaling, self-reflection, dream analysis, and mindful engagement, among other techniques, are daily practices that can help people to learn about their complexes.

Complexes can be big or small. To confront them directly is to reorient one’s consciousness. In order to transform as a human being, one must be willing to let go of past and present systems of belief. One must accept the death of their current values, ideals, goals, dreams, and attachments, in order to move on.

One can relate to a complex in a few ways. They can be unconscious of it, identify with it, avoid it, project it onto others, or confront it. If one is brave enough to confront their own complexes, they must accept its existence first. That doesn’t mean they should fall into fatalism or act from an urge of what they’re feeling.

Opening up to its existence, allowing themselves to experience its dimensions, will strengthen their character. Rather than attacking a complex (like the war on poverty, war on drugs), one should be compassionate toward themselves, embracing their feelings and thoughts. They can write an uncensored report of what they’re going through, reflecting on its history, without giving that report to anyone.

Journaling is helpful to bring a complex into a more objective light. One can remove its undefined form from within and then express it in external form. This can aid in psychological distance for self-reflection.

To accept a complex means to admit its “existence, power, and emotions” but that doesn’t mean to welcome or enable it. Many people, however, are afraid of what they’ve rejected from their identities, what they’ve suppressed for so long. They fear death and change. They’re resistant to growing up, finding independence from others, whether in the form of their parents or lovers, communities or cultures.

They don’t know how to be alone with themselves.

To discover the shadows within and integrate them, to discover that “inner relationships are the foundations for our outer ones,” to find courage through self-sacrifice, over and over, again and again, is a liberation from the past. A transformation of the old into the new.