Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Zen and the power of mindfilness:

Part of my journey this past year has been to explore philosophies that help improve your happiiness.  Due to several things in my life that had occured, I realized I was unhappy.  Furthermore, it seems despite feeling unhappy for a while, I had convinced myself that it was normal to feel that way.  The good times always lay in the future.  Somehow, I was going to get there eventually.

I started reading Thich Nhat Hanh, a very wise Zen Buddhist monk, and I found a lot of excellent life advice in his pages.  I had never given Zen Buddhism a lot of thought, dismissing it without ever really understanding what it was.

 I have always been wedded to physical objects.  I am a collector.  Sometimes I border on hoarding.  When I lost my house in 2015,  I had a library of 2,000+ books that I had collected over the course of my life.  I loved my collection.  I had lugged those books from college to the Army, stashing them in people's cellars and waiting until the day when I was able to put up my book shelves and take them out to display.

When it became clear I had to get rid of 90% of them, it was devastating.  But, I realize now that they are just things.  My attachment to them led to suffering, which helped no one, especially me.  I had read the books.  Their stories and knowledge was preserved in my brain.  I didn't need to own them, display them, or brag about them.  By letting them go, I freed myself.

Am I a perfect ascetic now?  Of course not.  I still buy books to read, and I still have many books on shelves.  But, I can say I no longer covet them, or refuse to part with them.  I give them away to those who could use them, or I donate them.  Thus they continue to do good by enlightening others.

Improving your mindfulness and happiness is a journey, much like anything else.  But you have to take the first steps to begin.

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