Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Attachment to a family meal.

I realized that I have an attachment to quiet meals with my family. When I take time to prepare a meal for Jenn and the kids I have an expectation that they will drop what they are doing and join me in a time of laughter and sharing and joy.
Often times however, my families agenda does not coincide with my desire to enjoy this time together. By reflecting on the needs of my family and respecting where they are in their lives I can attempt to reduce my need for a connected meal and simply enjoy the times when such an event occurs.
Hopefully this scene will not unfold again:
As I was finishing preparing a meal for Jenny and the kids, Mia began to lose her patience. She lied down on the kitchen floor next to me and began screaming at the top of her lungs. My 8 year old son Tommy began to stand just out of her reach as she tried to kick him from her back. I did not think it was possible, but her screams got louder.
"Mia, if you don't stop yelling, I am going to move you to your room."
More yelling and kicking.
"Mia, take a breath. You need to settle down and start using your words or there will be a consequence."
More yelling and kicking.
"Last chance." I began to lose my temper and put my hands on her shirt.
"No! I will stop!" she screamed.
I let her lay on the floor and tried to breathe. She grunted softly and was whining a bit.
Then Jenny decided to enter the argument. She was disappointed that I had not followed through on the consequence. (As many people who are reading this post are:)
"If you are not going to put her in a time out then I am." said Jenny.
I snapped.
"Don't even think about it! You don't like it when I interfere in your parenting choices, please don't interfere in mine."
Jenny turned and walked away and that outburst brought my 9 year old daughter into the argument.
"Daddy stop!" she yelled and she stormed out of the room.
I know she hates it when my wife and I argue. We snip at each other like that about once every 6 months. I have set the intention to reduce that amount.
She and Jenn came back to the kitchen, and still fuming I apologized for losing my temper. The scene was ugly, but as I regained my cool it was the only way that I could attempt to repair the damage.
"I am sorry for losing my patience and raising my voice." I said.
"No you are not!" screamed my 9 year old.
"I meditate each morning and do yoga in order to let those emotions go before I lose my temper. I do feel sorry. I am doing the best I can."
My 9 year old was still angry, but she seemed somewhat satisfied with this answer.

Needless to say, I did not enjoy the fish tacos as much as I anticipated. Since that incident I have reflected on my attachment to mealtimes and have tried to let it go with some success.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Talk on Buddhism for First Parish Church Sunday school.

The kids at FPC Sunday school recently visited a meditatation center. I was asked to put together a discussion on Buddhism to try to help them understand the topic better. Here is what I wrote:

Buddhism is a method to improve personal happiness. Premise: everyone wants happiness and deserves to be happy. We have a right to be happy and so does everyone else in equal measure.
Buddhism gives us a roadmap of the path to attain happiness. Two of the important ideas are:
1.Emotional Management
2.Compassion for ourselves and others.

Emotional Management: Buddhism gives us a method for incrementally calming and steadying our emotional state of mind. Our minds are like a pond. In high winds things aren’t clearly reflected. We want our mind to reflect reality and the truth.

We want to exercise control over which thoughts that we entertain and which thoughts we let go. Thoughts give rise to emotions. We have a thought and that evokes feelings. We want to limit the impact of the afflictive emotions of: anger, fear, frustration and greed. These are the biggest trouble makers in our experience and need our focus, attention and mindfulness. We want to limit the actions we take when we are under the influence of these emotions. When we are under their influence we don’t see the truth. Evolution delivers us blind energy when anger is present.

Story of the angry samurai:
This Buddhist story summarizes the effect of the afflictive emotion of anger:
A samurai warrior visited a Buddhist monk and said: “Master, explain to me the difference between heaven and hell.”
The monk replied: “I have no time for a simpleminded brute like you. Leave my temple.”
The samurai unsheathed his sword and shouted: “I could cut your head off right now!”
The monk replied: “That is hell.”
The samurai sheathed his sword, bowed his head and said: “Thank you, master.”
“That is heaven.” The monk proclaimed.

Sample meditation: One type of meditation involves letting go of all thoughts as they arise. An example meditation is one where we watch the breath. Let’s do a 5 minute breath meditation where we watch the breath and let go of all thoughts as they arise. This will enhance our ability to let go of toxic thoughts when they come into our experience, because if we can let go of all thoughts we can more readily let go of toxic ones when they are recognized.

The topic of attachment is important in the Buddhist framework.
We want to insure we don’t get caught up in praise or blame, fame or disrepute, pleasure and pain, gain and loss.
We don’t want to cling or grasp to a sensation because, by its nature, it is going to change. We need to welcome the present moment and we need to be ready to accept events as they unfold. One day we are the best at our sport, the next day we feel like we are an amateur again. Our bodies change and the world changes, but our calm, tranquil state of mind should be constant.

My 9 year old presented me with this joke the other day: “Why couldn’t the Buddhist vacuum in the corners of his house? Because he had no attachments!” She gets it, too.

We want to seek the truth in our experience. A Buddhist tries to resist falsehoods, exaggerations and sarcasm. The famous Japanese Buddhist poet Basho wrote: “The old pond, the frog jumps in, plop.”
Often in the West we use exaggerations to add excitement or humor to a story. Buddhist prefer truth because it is safer.

Meditation on the emotions:
Think of the last time you got really angry? Reflect on this event as a neutral third party. Reduce your ego and examine the events while taking all sides into account. Try to discover the truth in the experience.

The final topic I would like to introduce is emptiness. Buddhists believe that objects don’t exist in the way our minds initially interpret them. Everything is interconnected in our world and nothing exists in its own right. Everything that comes into existence depends on something that helped create it. Objects are constantly changing and cannot remain indefinitely or be completely destroyed. The table that we are using was build from trees and will eventually break down and return to the earth. Life and death are examples of another continuum. We think of our life starting when we were born, but we lived as a fetus prior to our birth. We were also a part of the apple that our mother ate that nourished her eggs. Another meditation is to contemplate where you were when your grandmother was born.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Buddhist joke from Lauren

Lauren asked me the other day: "Daddy, why can't the Buddhist clean in the corners of his room?"
"Because he has no attachments?"
"Get it? For his vacuum."
I love Buddhist jokes from my 9 year old.
She can be very emotionally mature and does a great job understanding the emotions of others.
Thanks to Jenn for supplying the joke.