My son recently introduced me to a YouTube channel which featured episodes labelled “Instant Karma”. There are a series of video clips showing people who are behaving badly getting their come uppence from the environment around them.
This “payback” element seems to fit with the common conception of karma. However this is not the whole story. On a simple level Karma can be seen as “If you behave badly/well then bad/good things will happen to you.” Such a world view would make a reasonable philosophy for living our lives.
When you correct your mind everything else will fall into place.
A few years ago I went through a difficult period with stress and depression. At this time my partner commissioned this brush painting for me. It shows a bamboo leaf falling, twisting in the air, full of life, while at the same time it is suspended in a single moment. A moment in which anything is possible, a moment that is full of possibility and in which nothing can be taken for granted.
It serves as a reminder that nothing lasts, that everything is transient, and that I need to do my best to stay in the present moment, open to new experiences and doing whatever I can to remain open to whatever opportunities and options come my way. It also reminds me that making predictions can be fraught with danger, after all a dragon might just fly down and eat the leaf.
This is also one of the reasons why I like rainbows, those fleeting, numinous phenomena that only exist in the eye of the beholder. A momentary experience of physics in action, something that is best when it is just experienced and enjoyed, not analysed.
The guy in the bright blue ute who cut me up on my way to work this morning, did not act to make me angry and reality would say that absolutely nothing happened.
I had to brake a bit harder than I wanted and the action disturbed my reverie and highlighted my being absent from what I was supposed to be doing at the time – driving. My mind flashed onto this event bringing to bear all the other times when I have felt discounted, unvalued, taken for granted, ignored or other similar experience. This results in a flash of rage bursting out “How dare he treat me so!” “How dare he put my life in danger.” And I am even further detached from the present moment, in my car, driving, right here right now.
To celebrate a year of posting here is my first post again.
Like many people I live far too much inside my head, and have tried to balance this tendency through the practice of mindfulness meditation.
One problem is that I value my ability to think quite highly. After all I am a westerner and a scientist and am given over to rational pursuits.
This has meant that I meet a lot of resistance to just sitting with the breath in meditation. As a result I spend far too much time on my cushions in idle reverie, putting the world to rights, rehashing ancient wrongs or designing the perfect gizmo for something.
When I grow up I wanna be famous I wanna be a star I wanna be in movies
When I grow up I wanna see the world Drive nice cars I wanna have groupies
Humankind is a very successful animal. Some two hundred thousand years ago, the entire human race consisted of a few thousand people living in Southern Africa. In the ensuing years, we have made full use of our adaptability and survival skills, and have spread to every corner of the globe on the way becoming the world’s dominant species. Our current population is heading for eight billion. Much of this success is due to our ability to survive against the odds.
The systems developed by the process of evolution to detect, and then react to danger, have stood us in good stead. However, these systems, designed to pick up the early signs of danger, can be very unhelpful in the digital age.
Thinking is what a great many people think they are doing when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.
Over the last twenty years, I have been forced to recognise that I spend far too much of the time when I attempt to meditate, sitting on my cushions lost in thought. This thinking is rarely helpful.
These thoughts, that insistently intrude upon my practice, and which come so regularly and without any formal invitation, fall into three main groups. There are variations on the themes that are involved, and in the content that they cover. The one thing that they have in common is to increase the irritability and reactivity of the mind.
Most of the people I know believe that their lives would be better if they had greater willpower. We all find it far too easy to sit down and watch the telly when we know we should be going out to the gym, or undertaking some other improving activity. There are lots of things that we would like to do more, and others that we would like to do less. Yet somehow, despite our best intentions, we find ourselves unable to find the motivation to keep going when we set out to make some new changes in our lives.
Willpower is one of the things that makes it possible to bring about successful change much more easily. A lack of willpower is the main reason cited when we do not follow through on positive changes in our lives. The American Psychological Association’s annual “Stress in America” survey published in 2011, showed that 27% of respondents reported lack of willpower as being the most significant barrier to bringing about change in their lives. The majority of respondents also believed that willpower was something that they could increase and develop through practice. Continue reading →
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