You Will Probably Have A Bad Experience While Meditating

When I went on my first silent meditation retreat I had to fill out a form. It included questions about whether I had ever been suicidal, if I was on any medication for mental health issues, and asked for the phone number of my psychiatrist, if I had one, or for the phone number of a mental health crisis contact.

I thought it was funny at first, but after about 36 hours in the desert I got it. This was one of the big breakthroughs in my meditation practice – it’s not always going to be pleasant. And it’s not supposed to be.

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Save Yourself With Service

Another heavy day. They come one after another, not letting us catch our breath. They are huge, cataclysmic. They overwhelm. You look at the scope of the problems hitting us, hour after hour, and it seems like there’s no way to fix it, like there’s no hope. You’re staring at a tsunami wave and simply waiting to be consumed.

That’s how I felt when I woke up this morning and saw a news alert on my phone about the Supreme Court upholding the President’s racist Muslim ban. I had only just opened my eyes and the first thing I learned about the world today is that our system of checks and balances is unbalanced and unchecked. What could I, an unemployed disgraced former film critic, do in the face of such wrongness?

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Who Was Buddha?

(The image above is Keanu Reeves as the Buddha in Little Buddha, a movie that actually does a pretty good job of retelling the Buddha’s story, and also feature a weird Chris Isaak performance)

Yesterday was Vesak, a Buddhist holiday that, with extreme efficiency, celebrates the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment AND death all at once. It’s highly unlikely that all of those events took place on the same day, and as Buddhism is one of those ancient religions that is less interested in facts than modern religions are, nobody really got upset about it.

Vesak seems like a good opportunity to talk really briefly about just who the Buddha was, because it’s clear to me most people don’t know. I certainly didn’t know until a couple of years ago, and I had taken comparative religion courses and had a lifelong interest in religious mythology. I always thought Buddha was the fat guy whose statue you see in Chinese restaurants, but it turns out that ain’t him. In fact those fat Buddha statues couldn’t be farther from the real thing.

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Caught In A Mind Mosh

Lately Anthrax’s Among the Living has been in heavy rotation on my headphones when I walk. The album is just fun, and I love the gleeful way the band mixes heavy nerd stuff (especially for the 80s) with thrash.

There’s one song I keep coming back to on that album. Caught In A Mosh is a song that speaks loudly to me now, even though it’s written from the point of view of a sullen teen. Maybe I’m always a sullen teen at heart. Anyway, the film’s main metaphor – being caught in a mosh – really explains what it feels like when my mind is working overtime and I am trapped inside destructive, negative stories about me and my life.
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Right Lying

Jedis and Vulcans both lie like the Buddha.

“There is a story I was once told by a monk that illustrates this. The story goes that the Buddha was doing walking meditation in the forest when he perceived with his “all-seeing eye” an incident about to occur, and planned how to respond to it. A moment later a terrified-looking man ran past. The Buddha then stepped a few feet to the left and waited. A gang of brigands approached and asked, “While standing there, did you see a man run past?”

““No,” replied the Buddha. He was, of course, telling the truth. He had been standing somewhere else when he saw the man run past.”

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The Mustard Seeds

A woman named Kisa gave birth to a beautiful baby boy and then, three months later, he suddenly died. Devastated she pulled his tiny, blue-tinged body from his crib and stumbled through the town, asking anyone if they could help her son.

People looked on her with pity or turned away, but finally a man said, “The Buddha is in town. He’s been wandering the countryside teaching, and he is here now, and I hear he is incredibly wise and holy. Perhaps he can help you.”

So Kisa found the Buddha and, eyes red and wild with grief, presented him with the corpse. “Please sir,” she begged. “Can you help my son?”

Why Buddhism?

Okay, so… why Buddhism?

If you’ve been following me/friends with me for a while you’ll know that I’ve been outspokenly atheist in the past. Making a commitment to Buddhism may seem, on the surface, to indicate a huge change in my cosmological thinking. That actually isn’t the case, and I’d like to quickly explain why I chose to take refuge in Buddhism (that’s what they call it when you become a Buddhist) and maybe why it isn’t that big of a deal, when it comes to ‘religious conversions.’

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