Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Random Act of Kindness

Photo credit: Glennf at Flickr

I’m submitting this post as a response to the challenge posed by Bruce Kuykendall on The 5 Little Things Challenge for the month of April. Out of the 5 things he proposed, I’ve decided to pick the one that is perhaps the most inspiring: Commit a Random Act of Kindness.

Firstly, before I share about what I did, I’d like to, for those who are new to this idea, define what is meant by the phrase “random act of kindness”.

What is a Random Act Of Kindness

Here is how Wikipedia definites a random act of kindness….

“A random act of kindness is a purportedly selfless act performed by a person or persons wishing to either assist or cheer up an individual or in some cases even an animal. There will generally be no reason other than to make people smile, or be happier. Either spontaneous or planned in advance, random acts of kindness are encouraged by various communities.”

In 1982, California peace activist Ann Herbert scribbled on a placemat in a restuarant “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” The words left an impression on a fellow diner, who later told the phrase to others. The words inspired much thought and conversation, including the movie “Pay it Forward” in 2000. An international bestseller also helped to catapult this concept .

There is now a World Kindness Movement. I also found out to my surprise, while doing a google search, that many of the meetings by this movement is being held here from Singapore (my country).

Why Bother To Make A Random Act of Kindness

Perhaps, you may be wondering why bother to make your act of kindness Random? Isn’t it enough to be kind to your family members, friends and colleagues or at least, to the people that you come into contact with?

Well, commiting a random act of kindness is a demonstration of the generosity of your spirit. Kindness is an expression of love. It is an abundance concept. It is the thinking that you are full of love for your fellow human kind that you’ve got more to give, even to strangers or people that you don’t really know.

“A random act of kindness is a manifestation of abundance thinking.” — Evelyn at

Sure, you do have to start with being kind to those nearest to you. However, when you commit an act randomly, maybe anonymously as well, you are extending an energy of love, hope, trust and support to the Universe.

Making a random act of kindness is fulfilling in itself. It provides you the opportunity for expansive awareness, a chance to explore your potential for human divinity. While you may have commited your act to benefit the recipient and not to ask for anything in return, you get untold benefits in terms of joy and purpose that you have served others. Do it often enough, it’s no longer called random; it’s kindness that permeats all levels of your Being.

“Some measure their lives by days and years,
Others by heart throbs, passion and tears;
But the surest measure under the sun,
Is what in your lifetime for others you have done.”
— Ruth Smeltzer

Random Act of Kindness To Dissolve Random Act of Violence

As it is often discussed, random acts of kindness is today’s antitode to random acts of terrorism and violence. You continue to read in the papers about intricate plots by terrorist groups, bent on crashing or bombing planes killing randomly all on board. These are usually sensational news, perhaps meant to highlight to you the importance about being vigiliant and to treasure peace and security. At the same time, how often do you read of reported cases of random acts of kindness? If random acts of kindess can be encouraged, they can overshadow acts of senseless killing, bringing about a More Loving World.

The threat of terrorism is a dense negative energy that you probably instinctively experience, whenever you come across such news. You feel it in the chill of your spine, thinking about how potentially destructive terrorism can be.

It’s good to be aware that random acts of kindness can dissolve this negative energy, bringing the Universe to much light. Then, maybe, these so-called random acts of kindness will not be occuring at an infrequent time space reality but much as a way of life.

How To Make A Random Act of Kindness

It’s more than likely that you’ve ever committed a random act of kindness. To make this a conscious process, simply form an intention to be kind and start with an act today.

You may be tempted to think that an act of kindness often involves the giving of money or the buying of gifts. However, it need not necessarily be so. It can be as simple as sending a card, doing a unsolicated task for those in need or letting others in a hurry to get ahead of you in line.

As with everything, the more often you do it, the more it becomes a habit. Your next act can seem small to you but may mean a lot to the recipient!

Aesop once said…

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

My Random Act of Kindness

Here’s my random act of kindness that I would like to share. I’ve often noticed irate drivers while parking my car in shopping centers during peak hours. Cars will be circling round waiting for a slot.

I may have entered the carpark later but more often than not, I would get a slot pretty fast. It helps that I use the three-fingers technique from the Silva Method to “intend” for an empty lot quickly. (If you want to learn this technique, read the instructions in the box below.)

If I’m not in a hurry, I may just graciously give it up to a driver of another car, waiting some distance away. I do not focus on the fact that it may take ages for me to find another empty space. Instead, I’ll just wait around and use the Silva Method to “manifest” another free opening for my car!!

The three-fingers technique is a simple technique to learn. Simply put your first three fingers together and program yourself by going into the alpha level and state that it will always be easy for you to find the shortest queue, a free parking space or not having to wait to get tickets. Each finger apparently represents a subjective energy, desire, belief and expectancy. Together, the three implies faith. Visualisation is key to success for this method. When you next encounter the situation, simply put your three fingers together and visualise the picture of your desired intent. Viola!! You will be surprised by the results.

Well, yesterday was no exception. I was parking my car on a Sunday in a busy mall. A perfect opportunity presented itself for me to commit a random act of kindness.

14 Other Examples For A Random Act of Kindness To Pick From

If you are busted for ideas, here are 14 more examples to kickstart your intention for a random act of kindness:

1. Pay the toll for the person behind you.

This is perhaps the most common example cited. If you’re at a motorway toll booth, pay for the car behind.

2. Donate to a charitable cause.
Turn your papers today to look for a charitable cause to donate to. Forget about the tax break for larger donation sums, even if it is a small amount that you can afford.

3. Send an anonymous card.
Think about someone who deserves to know that he or she is worthy of love or as an acknowledgement of what he or she has done. How often have we been rendered good customer service and a “thank you” is all we give? How about taking it one step further? Send a card. You may not even want to sign off with your name.

4. Deliver a goodie basket made with love.
Bake muffins or cookies and send them to the old folk’s or children’s home.

5. Be kind to your environment.
Avoid littering your environment. Treat your environment with loving care and kindness. While at the beach, pick up the rubbish.

6. Cheer the disspirited.
Grab a bunch of flowers and give it to the cleaner of the toilets in your office building. He or she may be looking somewhat disspirited while slogging away at a less-than glamourous job.

7. Let the person in a hurry behind, go before you.
If you are not in a hurry but notice that the person behind you is, let him or her go first. Here you are showing kindness by giving up your time.

8. Lend a helping hand to a distraught parent.
Kids missing in shopping centers or in public areas occur very often. Parents are often distraught. Offer to help look for these kids.

9. Give up your seat in the public bus to the weary soul.
While it may not take all that much for you to give up your seat in a crowded public bus to the pregnant or the elderly, how about giving up your seat to just any passenger who looks weary or who is carrying a heavy bag?

10. Offer your hand in carrying groceries at the supermarket.
If you notice someone who is struggling with carrying bags of groceries, offer to help lighten their load.

11. Be kind to stray cats or dogs.
The practice of loving kindness should not just extend to your fellow human race. You should also show kindness to animals. If you notice a stray cat or dog, do the right thing and not kick it away!

12. Do a secret act of service.
If you notice a neighbour or a colleague in need of some assistance, how about rendering the help secretly? It can be mowing your neighbour’s untidy lawn or it can be sorting out some files for your colleague. Leave an anonymous card that says “please pay it forward”.

13. Give up your lunch to the needy.
How about skipping your expensive lunch today and donating the money away? Or you can buy lunch and give it to the begger on the street round the corner. Consider having just a salad for yourself instead.

14. Volunteer your help randomly.
Pick randomly a family or someone in crisis. Don’t know where to look? Search your local newspaper for leads. Determine if you can offer in kind or in service.

15. Follow the example on the picture of this post (see above).
The photo opportunity was apparently spotted under the Aurora Bridge in Fremont, Seattle, Wash. If you’ve picked up something that you think may be of value to someone out there, write a short note with your contact details and place it at the location where you’ve found the item.

This list is by no means exhaustive. The idea is to be creative and spontaneous. Be on the prowl over the next few days for an unsuspecting recipient. Rise up to Bruce’s challenge for a Better Month of April and beyond!

“The only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”— Albert Schweitzer, Nobel Prize Winner

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Center yourself in gratitude

By Evelyn Lim

(Photo by aussiegall on flickr)

One of the best emotions to cultivate alongside a positive attitude is a feeling of gratitude and appreciation. In fact, these emotions are of the highest vibrational frequency and by virtue of the Law of Attraction, you attract more of what you are already thankful for.

Today being Thanksgiving Day (forth Thursday of November) in the United States, let us not let this day pass without any expressions of gratitude and appreciation. Even if some of you, including myself, do not come from the States, I believe that there is still every reason to celebrate!!

Here are 7 ways to center yourself in gratitude:

1. Think of gratitude as an energy. Giving thanks is not about feeling it for a day. It is an energy that you exude every moment every single day. It is a positive uplifting sense of who you are and what you have.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…. It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.
— Melodie Beattie

Gratitude as an energy that attracts more of the same. You keep your energy vibration high when you are happy for what you are already blessed with. The Universe/God “rewards” you with even more of the physical realities that resonate in the same vibrational frequency.

Consider this simple analogy . When you receive a gift from a friend, you say thank you. The look in your eye and gasp of delight is priceless as you open up your present. Your friend makes a note, in awareness of how happy he or she has just made you feel. He or she will intend to do buy you other gifts that can bring about the same look of joy.

The reverse happens if you do not show appreciation of what you have been given. Your friend may not feel incentivized to buy you any more presents.

2. Realise that you have a choice. Having the right attitude towards life makes a great deal of difference of how you live and it is a choice that you can make. You can have a positive attitude about the events in your life or you can come from a place of misery and complaints. Gratitude and appreciation are positive emotions that come with adopting a great attitude!

In a nutshell, even if things don’t go your way, realize that you can choose to feel positive. Instead of wallowing in self pity and lamenting about your circumstances, look at challenges and obstacles as learning opportunities. The tide will turn eventually.

“When flowing water meets with obstacles on its path, a blockage in its journey, it pauses. It increases in volume and strength, filling up in front of the obstacle and eventually spilling past it….”
— I Ching.

3. Refrain from feeling jealous about other people’s fortunes. When you do so, you are only emphasizing on your lack. The Universe responds by continuing to give you situations of scarcity.

Instead, be appreciative of the example set by others; that they can create the experience that you would like to have. Hence, if they can do it, know that you can create the same, if not better, too.

4. Expressing gratitude does not have to be over anything BIG. A sense of gratitude may not be for anything that is materially Big. It can be as simple as being thankful to the Creator for a new and beautiful dawn, for being able to witness the smile on your kids’ face, and the golden opportunity to pick yourself up from adversities.

Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.
— Buddha

5. Practice a gratitude grounding exercise. If feeling appreciative and grateful is not something that you are attuned to, then consider doing a gratitude grounding exercise. Here are some steps:

- In a gratitude journal, jot down thoughts of appreciation for your blessings. For whatever you are intending for, write down about how grateful you are, as if you have already received your answer or desire.

- Refer to your gratitude journal and affirm and feel your thanks everyday.

- Accept, allow, and act on any inspirations that come to you, moving you from “what you want” to become “what you are or have”.

- Be alert to any instances of your prayers being heard. Sometimes it is not that our dreams are not met but that they are being answered in an unexpected way. Be happy for all your answered prayers.

It may seem tough at first to practice being thankful for things that you would like to have but do not have currently. However, with a little practice and reflection, you will gradually create a new life experience for yourself.

“Whatever it is you are feeling is a perfect reflection of what is in the process of becoming.”
— Abraham Hicks

“You get exactly what you are FEELING.”
— Abraham Hicks

6. Live in the Now. If you find yourself often living in the future, then it is hard to feel any sense of appreciation for the many blessings you have today. Perhaps your attitude has been one of “I am only happy when ________ takes place”.

If it is really the case, then make a change. Practice awareness of the beauty and abundance around you right this current moment. Feel joy with every single breath that you take. Experience its fullness as you taste the sweet nectar in nature’s drink.

7. Surround Yourself With Positive People. You will obviously find it a challenge to feel positive and grateful, if you surround yourself with friends who are whiners, negative and depressed. Hence, make it a point to mix with positive and uplifting people. Spend time with spiritually evolved or joyful people who can love and support you in healthy ways. They will encourage you in your self growth and applaud you when you have attained success.

Don’t know any of such friends? Well, look online. Hang around this blog for instance. The commenting section to the posts of this site is frequently visited by the likes of many happy, positive, strong and encouraging bloggers, coaches and spiritual mentors. Do visit their sites for a sprinkling of their wisdom, insights and inspiration!!

Express Your Gratitude

(Photo by Per Ola Wilberg on flickr)

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.
— Albert Schweitzer

Would you like to take the opportunity now to express your gratitude to anyone? Do say a word of thanks for the light that you have become because of another person’s support. If you have any thoughts on gratitude and appreciation, also feel free to share them in the comments below.

Happy Thanksgiving

I would like to also express my gratitude to all my readers for your warmth and encouragement. I have been having a great time publishing jokes, stories and quizzes on this site and it is nice to know how much you’ve enjoyed them too!! For those who celebrate this day, have a Happy Thanksgiving with your family and friends!!

Link Love On Gratitude

1) When Thanksgiving Comes and Goes What Then by Jeff Nickles

2) Radical Gratitude by Andrea Hess

3) With Many Thanks We Dance by Lance Ekum.

100 Benefits of Meditation

By Frederic Premji

image from All Posters

There are so many advantages to meditation. When I first originally thought of this post, I indeed wanted to make it 100 benefits long (think big right!), however, I wasn’t sure I could find more than perhaps 20-25 benefits. Well, I made it happen! Meditation is as powerful as I thought it would be. Here is the definitive list of benefits that meditation can provide you with:

Physiological benefits:
1- It lowers oxygen consumption.
2- It decreases respiratory rate.
3- It increases blood flow and slows the heart rate.
4- Increases exercise tolerance.
5- Leads to a deeper level of physical relaxation.
6- Good for people with high blood pressure.
7- Reduces anxiety attacks by lowering the levels of blood lactate.
8- Decreases muscle tension
9- Helps in chronic diseases like allergies, arthritis etc.
10- Reduces Pre-menstrual Syndrome symptoms.
11- Helps in post-operative healing.
12- Enhances the immune system.
13- Reduces activity of viruses and emotional distress
14- Enhances energy, strength and vigour.
15- Helps with weight loss
16- Reduction of free radicals, less tissue damage
17- Higher skin resistance
18- Drop in cholesterol levels, lowers risk of cardiovascular disease.
19- Improved flow of air to the lungs resulting in easier breathing.
20- Decreases the aging process.
21- Higher levels of DHEAS (Dehydroepiandrosterone)
22- prevented, slowed or controlled pain of chronic diseases
23- Makes you sweat less
24- Cure headaches & migraines
25- Greater Orderliness of Brain Functioning
26- Reduced Need for Medical Care
27- Less energy wasted
28- More inclined to sports, activities
29- Significant relief from asthma
30- improved performance in athletic events
31- Normalizes to your ideal weight
32- harmonizes our endocrine system
33- relaxes our nervous system
34- produce lasting beneficial changes in brain electrical activity
35- Cure infertility (the stresses of infertility can interfere with the release of hormones that regulate ovulation).

Psychological benefits:
36- Builds self-confidence.
37- Increases serotonin level, influences mood and behaviour.
38- Resolve phobias & fears
39- Helps control own thoughts
40- Helps with focus & concentration
41- Increase creativity
42- Increased brain wave coherence.
43- Improved learning ability and memory.
44- Increased feelings of vitality and rejuvenation.
45- Increased emotional stability.
46- improved relationships
47- Mind ages at slower rate
48- Easier to remove bad habits
49- Develops intuition
50- Increased Productivity
51- Improved relations at home & at work
52- Able to see the larger picture in a given situation
53- Helps ignore petty issues
54- Increased ability to solve complex problems
55- Purifies your character
56- Develop will power
57- greater communication between the two brain hemispheres
58- react more quickly and more effectively to a stressful event.
59- increases one’s perceptual ability and motor performance
60- higher intelligence growth rate
61- Increased job satisfaction
62- increase in the capacity for intimate contact with loved ones
63- decrease in potential mental illness
64- Better, more sociable behaviour
65- Less aggressiveness
66- Helps in quitting smoking, alcohol addiction
67- Reduces need and dependency on drugs, pills & pharmaceuticals
68- Need less sleep to recover from sleep deprivation
69- Require less time to fall asleep, helps cure insomnia
70- Increases sense of responsibility
71- Reduces road rage
72- Decrease in restless thinking
73- Decreased tendency to worry
74- Increases listening skills and empathy
75- Helps make more accurate judgements
76- Greater tolerance
77- Gives composure to act in considered & constructive ways
78- Grows a stable, more balanced personality
79- Develops emotional maturity

Spiritual benefits:
80- Helps keep things in perspective
81- Provides peace of mind, happiness
82- Helps you discover your purpose
83- Increased self-actualization.
84- Increased compassion
85- Growing wisdom
86- Deeper understanding of yourself and others
87- Brings body, mind, spirit in harmony
88- Deeper Level of spiritual relaxation
89- Increased acceptance of oneself
90- helps learn forgiveness
91- Changes attitude toward life
92- Creates a deeper relationship with your God
93- Attain enlightenment
94- greater inner-directedness
95- Helps living in the present moment
96- Creates a widening, deepening capacity for love
97- Discovery of the power and consciousness beyond the ego
98- Experience an inner sense of “Assurance or Knowingness”
99- Experience a sense of “Oneness”
100- Increases the synchronicity in your life

Meditation is also completely FREE! It requires no special equipment, and is not complicated to learn. It can be practiced anywhere, at any given moment, and it is not time consuming (15-20 min. per day is good). Best of all, meditation has NO negative side effects. Bottom line, there is nothing but positive to be gained from it! With such a huge list of benefits, the question you should ask yourself is, “why am I not meditating yet?”

If you need a point to start from, you should try guided meditation courses. They are inexpensive and can provide you with a good foundation from which to begin meditating.

Make sure you meditate, there are quite simply too many positives to just ignore it.

Find Inner Peace in 10 Ways

By Frederic Premji


Don’t you find life to always be filled with stress? Doesn’t it seem like there is always something that happens which encompasses our entire attention, and thus drain our positive energy? As our society grows more and more complex, finding true peace becomes more like trying to find an oasis in the desert. My life is a busy one as well, as running a company and all of the stress & demands that comes with it, definitely takes its toll over time. Therefore, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some of the methods that I use in my life to find peace and disconnect from the daily routine:

Accept what is
There is only so much we can affect. What we cannot change, what we cannot influence no matter what, should not be a concern to us. This is what I notice with so many people, in that we focus and linger on things which we have no control over. Why worry about something that all the worrying in the world will not change? Why care about what other people think of us when we’re not even sure what it is they are actually thinking? Once you open the blinds to this fact, and start accepting what is that you cannot change, you automatically relieve yourself of a mountain of stress and anxiety. It’s like a huge weight has been lifted from your shoulders. Taking this path is following a road towards peace.

If you do not meditate yet, you are missing out on a very important activity that can change your life. Meditating for 20 minutes daily can have an enormous impact in all areas of your life. Take a look at this post I wrote 100 Benefits of Meditation. If that doesn’t convince you to start meditating, I don’t know what will! If you have a lot on your mind and you feel like your thoughts are driving you crazy, meditation can help you find peace. Simply close everything, sit back, close your eyes, and clear your mind of every single thought. Focus on the emptiness. You will be surprised what a mere 20 minutes of meditation can do to turn things around for you. If you have trouble meditating, I would suggest getting a professional guided meditation CD, which will help you get used to this level of peacefulness ;)

Spend time in nature
We spend so much time confined in buildings of steel and concrete and bricks that we quickly forget where we come from. It is natural for us to be in nature, and this is why it feels so good and it is so peaceful when you take a walk in a park or bike on a trail in the forest. As I am typing this blog, I am looking out my window to this gigantic tree in front of my house. Watching its stillness, with the wind blowing through its branches calmly, it is a sight that not only inspires me, but that I find peace within it. I have blogged before about how I enjoy biking and one of the reasons is that it brings me closer to nature. It is something you just can’t experience in a car. If you feel overwhelmed, take a stroll outside where there are tons of trees and far from the city. Be there and just enjoy the sights, the sounds, and the peace.

Learn the power of a smile
Whenever you are laughing or smiling, something interesting happens. Not only does something happen on a chemical level to make you feel better, but it also stops all stress and negativity from entering your psyche. A simple smile can make such a difference. For example, the other day I mishandled a dish and it fell on the floor, breaking into pieces, creating a big mess. Now, I could have been angry with myself for being clumsy and thinking “here’s another reason why life sucks!”. But I did the opposite. I began to smile and kind of make fun of myself for not being able to hold on to that plate properly. As I cleaned up the mess, there was no bitterness or anger. As a matter of fact, I did it with a smile on my face…I did it with peace. So whenever you find yourself in a similar predicament, just think of the silver lining, and don’t be shy to poke fun at yourself. You will quickly realize that peace finds its way much more easily to you when you smile.

Think outwardly
What I mean by this is that most of the time, we are so consumed within our own problems that we can no longer see the forest from the trees. Therefore, it helps to remind ourselves how big the world is. Take a moment and read up about some other countries, cultures, and the likes. Be aware that the world does not revolve around your problems. I find that when I hear about a tsunami or an earthquake killing hundreds of thousands of people on the other side of the world, my problems aren’t really “problems”. Looking beyond ourselves is very important in finding peace and it leads me to my next point.

Care about others
You will never find peace by being self-consumed and only worrying about your own needs and wants. When you begin to genuinely care about other people, so much goodness comes right out. This only helps into solidifying your inner peace. It can be people close to you or pure strangers, but any act of kindness and goodwill eases your way towards peace. When I help other people, I stop focusing on my so-called problems and realize that my life isn’t so bad after all. This rids my entire being of all the stress and feelings of overwhelm. There is great peace and wisdom in thinking and caring about other people, which we are blind to when we are too deep within our own selfish ways.

Never lose hope
Hope is something you can never afford to lose. With hope you always have a path towards peace. Whenever we get too stressed out and overwhelmed within our own life, we forget that hope. We forget that the sun always shines after a rainy day, and that this is merely a bump in the road. I find immense peace in just knowing, deep within my heart, that everything will be ok. With hope, I know that whatever is seemingly terrible, is only temporary and that soon enough, things will be just fine. This lifts off all of that negativity from my entire being, and I feel better pretty much instantly.

Embrace your beliefs
I am not one to pick or favor one belief system over another, so whatever it is that you believe in, embrace it with your entire being. Be within your faith 100% and peace will find its way into your heart. Now, we may all disagree on each other’s beliefs but one thing we must all agree on is that having a solid, healthy faith is crucial in founding a proper conscience that helps into guiding us towards peace and wisdom. There is a reason why research has shown that people that are deeply devoted to their faith have a higher life expectancy and are less likely to have diseases such as cancer. This is because they experience more inner peace, which is important if you want to increase the quality of your life.

Keep learning
One thing that provides us with much stress in life is the fact that we always worry about not having all the answers. Just accepting that you do not know everything, and that you are open to always keep learning is a tremendous step to take towards achieving inner peace. I find great joy in learning all kinds of different things, and just being aware that I am growing as a person each and every day provides me with great feelings of peace. Accept that life is one big journey of never-ending learning and you will find yourself closer to experiencing true peace within yourself.

Live in the present moment
Most of the time, what we worry about is relating to something either in the past, or something that hasn’t happened. Living in the present moment erases all such thoughts. Why worry about something in the past that we cannot ever change? (see point #1, accept what is). Why worry about something that we are not even sure will happen or not? This is why in the present moment, you find true inner peace. In the present moment, there are no problems and no concerns. There is only stillness, and it is within that stillness that you can uncover peace. I used to be such a person that worried all the time, to the point where I had trouble sleeping. Once I learned to live in the present moment, I stopped thinking about the past and any potential future, and just worried about being ever-present in each and every moment. My life is definitely more peaceful since then!

I am positive that this list can help you find your inner peace. If you require more wisdom and reading on the subject, I highly recommend The Path to Tranquillity by the Dalai Lama. It’s a terrific little book full of wisdom, and reading just a page each day is really inspiring. You might also want to check out Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle and another great book called The Path to Love by Deepak Chopra.

Become A Better Person In Just 7 Days

By Frederic Premji under Self Help, Success

There are many things that you can do to become a better person. You can work hard, exercise, and eat well for example. All of these things are great, no question about it. However, in my opinion, becoming a better person starts with being selfless. Doing good deeds for other people without expecting to gain from it is one of the most rewarding experiences that one can feel in a lifetime. Becoming a truly better person begins with giving outwardly. I’ve come up with this challenge:

7 days to becoming a better person.

Each day you do something selfless, that will not even take more than a few moments of your time, and experience first hand what it feels like to transform into a genuinely great person. Here’s the challenge:

Day 1 - Tell someone you love them

So many people out there never take the precious time to express how they feel to the ones that are truly important in their life. Expressing your love shouldn’t be seen as taboo or a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of confidence, and an expression of what you really feel. There is nothing more amazing than to know that someone loves you. On this first day of the challenge, choose someone in your life to make them feel that special feeling. It’s very simple, just sit them down and say something along those lines: “You know I don’t say this often enough but I do appreciate our bond and everything that you do for me. So I just wanted to tell you that I love you…I wanted you to know that.” In two minutes, you have made someone’s day….forget day, you’ve made their month! So pick a spouse, a parent, a sibling, a friend….anyone that you truly care about and say the magic word. You may get a little nervous just before, but once you say it, I guarantee you that you will feel amazing. Yes, becoming a better person is not a chore….it actually feels great!

Day 2 - Open your ears and listen
Everyone has their share of issues that they deal with on a daily basis. We all at some point need to be heard. We need to get things out and just blow some steam. Unfortunately, the art of listening is fading away. It’s becoming more and more of a struggle for people to find a good pair of ears to vent off to. So on day 2 of your quest to becoming a better person, you simply have to be there for someone close to you. That’s all you have to do. Listen to them. Let me tell you, I do this all the time with my friends. I make myself available for them and I just listen. You wouldn’t believe how it makes them happy to have someone listen to them. No opinions, no judgment. Listen unconditionally. You may not have realized the power of listening yet, but this exercise will prove it to you. It can make a tremendous difference in someone’s life, and it’s one of the best gifts you can give anyone.

Day 3 - Apologize
We all have made certain mistakes. We’ve all done things we regret. Unfortunately, the majority of the time, we never take the opportunity to make things better, perhaps out of pride or ego. So we carry this along with us. Sure, with time, its impact may fade a little, but there is a much more powerful method to deal with such situations. On day 3, it’s time for you to swallow your pride and apologize. Look into your past. Is there a particular person that you have lost touch with or haven’t spoken to in a while? Regardless of what happened, this is not the time to decide who was right and who was wrong. This is about healing a wound. Apologizing is not an admission that you were wrong. On the other hand, it is proof that you are confident enough to say it. This act will not only make the other party feel much better, it will inspire them. So by being the “bigger person” and apologizing, you create nothing but positive energy all around. This is as rewarding for you as it is for that other person.

Day 4 - Give away a valuable
Nowadays, the only time people give each other anything somewhat meaningful is on birthdays and holidays. What about the other 360-something days of the year? Simply giving contains so much power in and of itself. This is why on day 3, you will choose something meaningful that you will give to someone that you know will like it and/or benefit from it. It must be something in your home, that you already own. Perhaps a painting, or a book. Something that you hold dear and that will bring happiness and value to the person you choose to give it to. You see, sharing your wealth is one of the best ways to prove how much you care and necessary to becoming a good person. These types of gifts are so much more powerful than anything given on birthdays or holidays, because it shows that you gave it because you wanted to, not because you had it. This brings a whole new meaning to that gift and will make the person appreciate it even more!

Day 5 - Volunteer your time
The first few days, you have given back to the people close to you, but now, it is time to take this further than the comfort of your own surroundings! Giving back to your community and your society is just as important, and an integral part of making everything as a whole, a much better existence for all involved. On day 5, it is time for you to give some of your time away. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You can volunteer your time helping out at your children’s school, or at a local community center for example. It doesn’t have to be a full day or many hours. Volunteer the time that you can. What I mean is that instead of watching tv or surfing the web for example, take some of that time and do something that will help contribute to the development of your community. Ask around, could be something at work or related to a particular activity that you do. Nobody refuses a helping hand and everyone benefits out of it :)

Day 6 - Help out a stranger
So many people out there could use the help of some good people. After all, we are all humans and we should stick up for one another. I’ve always been amazed by stories of complete strangers risking their life to help a fellow human being. If we can just help anyone with a fraction of such a commitment, then we’ve all made a difference. On day 6, it’s time to do a kind gesture for a total stranger. Could be helping an elderly person with their bags, or helping a kid cross the street, there are so many tiny gestures that we can do in our daily life to help others it’s incredible. When you see a car break down on the side of the road, most people drive by, thinking that help is on the way or that someone else will stop. How about you become the person that stops? How about you become the person whose gesture makes a total stranger’s day? This is your opportunity to showcase how a good-hearted person reacts in such situations for the greater good of all involved.

Day 7 - Donate
The world is a big place, but in the end, we are a tiny community in the vastness of the Universe. All we have is each other. Although they may not live nearby, there are so many people around the world that need the assistance of good natured people. On this final day, it is time to take your good deeds global! There are tons of really good charities and organizations across the globe that make it their goal to help out those that are in need. Pick any organization about any particular cause that you may hold dear to your heart, and provide them with a donation. The internet makes it really easy now to find such organizations, so this final step is super simple and quick to complete. Donate whatever you can. The amount is not important. What is important is that even though your gesture was simple and quick, the difference it will make will resonate with far greater significance in the grand scheme of things.

So there you have it! 7 days and a better you comes out of it. As a matter of fact, if you have noticed, in becoming a better person, you have affected the lives of so many different people in such positive ways. With such small gestures each day, you have made a difference in your life as well as in other people’s, and that is what becoming a better person is all about. You may find that after these 7 days, you have now developed a habit and that you will continue each and every day to give back. If you have created a “momentum” of doing good deeds and that it will keep on going, then I have done my work. This can indeed become life changing! So you have the challenge and I would love to hear what you all have done and how it’s impacted your life and those around you ;)

The Seven Beliefs Of Success

By Frederic Premji under Success


A solid belief system can take you a long way. Success has its own belief system and when you can master such a system, there is very little that can stop the inevitable: massive achievements. Take a look at the seven beliefs that can take your success to greater heights:

Belief #1: Everything happens for a reason
I can guarantee you that all successful people believe that there is a purpose behind every event or situation. Whether it’s a lesson to be learned or a change in your life’s path for example, they believe that whatever happens was meant to happen. Thus, they make lemonade out of a lemon. Instead of beating yourself down if something does not go your way, focus on the good that can come out of it. Yes, certain events are indeed very difficult to see positive into them, but you owe it to yourself and to your success to try your absolute best to make the most out of any situation. There are many people that lost a loved one to a disease, only to become advocates for research to cure such a disease, as well as many victims of accidents that have not let their shortcomings in the aftermath get in the way of whatever they wanted to accomplish. Sometimes life does not go as planned, but knowing that everything happens for a reason can help you carve a new path towards a new life with new goals and new successes.

Belief #2: Failure does not exist

There are only learning experiences. Once you submerge yourself into a culture that does not see failure, but only experiences and results, you take away an enormous chunk of negative energy out of your life. For example, I come up with many different ideas for marketing and new courses. Sometimes, these ideas do not provide the results I expected. Instead of saying “I failed”, I tell myself “I guess I learned something. I learned that this technique does not work. I’ll try something else then”. If you want to achieve highly successful outcomes, you need to alter your view of failures into something constructive that keeps you going until you get the results you desired.

Belief #3: Take responsibility no matter what
It’s very easy to play the blame game whenever a difficult situation arises, but the true leaders are the ones that will take full responsibility, whether it’s positive or negative. You may be tempted to deflect any blame onto others but there is something empowering about accepting responsibility. If you know there is no such thing as failure, only learning experiences, then it is in your best interest to take full responsibility, since you know you will achieve your desired outcome regardless. This shows maturity, as well as a coherent belief system all the way through. It’s a symbol of personal power which is necessary to become highly successful.

Belief #4: You don’t need to understand everything perfectly
You may notice that most very successful people are well versed into many different subjects but do not have full mastery of them. They know what’s essential without getting into all the minute details of it all. For example, running this website and business, I have knowledge in areas such as marketing, design, programming, accounting, finances, etc. I am by no means an expert in these subjects, but I know enough to manage them effectively & collectively. I leave out the details to be handled by my accountant, designer, programmer, and marketing manager. Successful people aren’t the most knowledgeable people. For example, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs weren’t the most skilled programmers or computer engineers. However, they were the most effective in using the skills that they had.

Belief #5: Your biggest resource are your people

You should know that you cannot climb the ladder of success all alone. Along the way, you will need people to assist you. The ones that climb further and higher than the rest are the ones that treat their people the best. A sense of team unity and respect is totally necessary in order to create the proper mood from which you can harvest adequate success. When you have a successful team working together, success comes easily. This is why you need to nurture that team. Care for those relationships because the more positive and enlightening they are, the further along you will get.

Belief #6: Work is play
Do you know anyone that’s ever succeeded doing something they absolutely hate? Me neither! An important key to success is making a combination of what you do with what you love. We can all do our best to find work that invigorates us and makes us excited. As well, we can also bring about at work many of the aspects of what we love to do. You have to make “your vocation your vacation” as Mark Twain so eloquently said. If you view work as nothing more than a way to make money, then it will nothing more than that. Sooner or later, it will be dreadful to be doing this work many hours per day, when the only reason you are doing it is for money. It needs to be more than that. It needs to spark your creativity, make you smile, and inspire you. I highly recommend you check out the article 7 Questions To Finding Your True Passion, which takes this point in further details.

Belief #7: There is no success without commitment
To achieve great things, you need a great commitment. When JFK said we would put a human being on the Moon, it was a huge commitment. Look at the enormous success it provided though. The most successful people are usually the ones that are the most committed. The best example that comes to mind is Wayne Gretzky. He was never the biggest player. He was never the fastest skater. He didn’t have the most powerful shot. However, he was the most committed. Hockey was his passion and his life, which made him practice harder and want success more. That is why he became the greatest hockey player the sport has ever seen. Success comes with a price. The ones that do whatever it takes (of course without harming someone or cheating) are the ones that accomplish the most.

Lessons for a Happy Life

by Shilpan Patel, from success soul

If you want happiness for an hour — take a nap. If you want happiness for a day — go fishing. If you want happiness for a month — get married. If you want happiness for a year — inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime — help someone else.
- Chinese Proverb

While driving on the highway, I stumbled upon a billboard that read, “Be happy now”. I, for a moment, felt jolt of happiness in my body. It was inexplicable but the feeling was real.

I pondered along the way about happiness and its sources. Where it comes from? I started feeling nostalgic. My mind started wandering into the past in an intense search for the traces of happiness. It was exhilarating thought to find the roots of happiness that lie nowhere but in my own thoughts and the ability to react to different circumstances.

I have a habit of writing a journal. The journal tracks my life. It tracks my setbacks, it tracks my success and it certainly tracks my happy days. I went through the journal to capture the lessons of happiness that I can share with you.

Lesson # 1: Make someone happy:
A successful surgeon practices surgery daily; a successful lawyer practices law daily. To become happy, you need to make someone happy. Engage in random acts of kindness. Try to serve others with your time and money. Making someone happy makes you selfless. I have always felt happy when I do not expect any return for the service I rendered. It always makes my day fulfilling.

Lesson # 2: Become debt free:
Debt is an imprisonment to our happiness. It shackles our ability to think and pursue true happiness. Imagine if you are living by paycheck to paycheck, it is hard to have anytime for things that bring happiness when you have to work to make money to pay debt without any relief. You can cut out fat from your spending to work towards paying off your debt. If you start living life of simplicity, you will accentuate your freedom from the debt-ridden life.

Remember, happiness doesn’t depend upon who you are or what you have, it depends solely upon what you think.
- Dale Carnegie (1888-1955) American writer.

Lesson # 3: Choose to be positive:
Our ability to choose our thoughts allows us to think positively. If we learn how to replace self-limiting thoughts with affirmations, we develop habit of positive thinking. For instance, replace self-limiting thought of - “I do not have enough time to enjoy time with my family.” with “I have plenty of time to spend time with my family”.

Lesson # 4: Be transparent:
I constantly remind myself that to earn trust from friends and family, I have to remain transparent about my actions. I have to show honesty and sincerity in the pursuit of happiness to get support from my alter ego. I have to show her that I’m committed to her pursuit of happiness as much as I’m to mine. Develop transparency with the attitude of showing all your cards to others involved in your life. They will in turn show you their cards; together everyone wins.

Lesson # 5: Live a simple life:
The modern day life is an entangled web of complexity. We live with cell phones, laptops, and pagers. These devices are convenient and they definitely add flexibility to work anywhere in the world. However, we pay steep price for these conveniences. We clutter our minds with information overload. We tend to ignore our inner voice of simplicity to feel true happiness. We tend to ignore the pristine value of our time with family; we definitely ignore the pearls of joy in sharing our laughter with our children. I’m not advocating that we give up on our pursuit of the burning desire, I’m suggesting that we shall always be mindful about de-cluttering our physical as well as mental space to live for a happy, fulfilling life.

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
- Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) Preeminent leader of Indian nationalism.

Quotes From The Dalai Lama

dalai lama

By Frederic Premji under Inspirational Quotes, Spirituality

The Dalai Lama has some very insightful verses. I’ve gathered my favorite quotes from the Tibetan leader about a variety of topics such as love, compassion, peace, humanity, violence, and the environment. It’s a very interesting read. Enjoy ;) :

1- Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.

2- If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.

3- If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

4- My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.

5- Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.

6- The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual’s own reason and critical analysis.

7- We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection.

8- We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.

9- Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

10- If you have fear of some pain or suffering, you should examine whether there is anything you can do about it. If you can, there is no need to worry about it; if you cannot do anything, then there is also no need to worry.

11- If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love others. You will not be able to love others. If you have no compassion for yourself then you are not able of developing compassion for others.

12- Human potential is the same for all. Your feeling, “I am of no value”, is wrong. Absolutely wrong. You are deceiving yourself. We all have the power of thought - so what are you lacking? If you have willpower, then you can change anything. It is usually said that you are your own master.

13- We must recognize that the suffering of one person or one nation is the suffering of humanity. That the happiness of one person or nation is the happiness of humanity.

14- Through violence, you may ’solve’ one problem, but you sow the seeds for another.

15- As people alive today, we must consider future generations: a clean environment is a human right like any other. It is therefore part of our responsibility toward others to ensure that the world we pass on is as healthy, if not healthier, than we found it.

16- To conquer oneself is a greater victory than to conquer thousands in a battle.

17- There is a saying in Tibetan, “Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.”
No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.

18- The creatures that inhabit this earth-be they human beings or animals-are here to contribute, each in its own particular way, to the beauty and prosperity of the world.

19- A spoon cannot taste of the food it carries. Likewise, a foolish man cannot understand the wise man´s wisdom even if he associates with a sage.

20- In our struggle for freedom, truth is the only weapon we possess.

You may also be interested in this quick post I wrote a while back about a few verses from the Dalai Lama: Verses For Training The Mind

dalai lama

I’ve been going through the Dalai Lama’s Path to Tranquility, and thought to share a few verses from what inspired him to write that book: a work called the Eight Verses For Training The Mind. I want to point them out as to show how very different our world would be if we were to live according to those principles. Here are a few:

“When I see beings of wicked nature
overwhelmed by violent negative emotions and sufferings,
I shall hold such rare ones dear,
As if I have found a precious treasure.”

And this makes sense. Why let others bring us down to their level with their anger. Fill them with your love, brighten their darkness with your light, and watch their anger and violence dissipate. In our reality, we get dragged down into that darkness and fight with them. If only more of us would think about shining a light of good on their enemies instead of trying to destroy them, it would be one different reality indeed! Ok, here’s another:

“When in the company of others
I shall always consider myself the lowest of all,
and from the depth of my heart
Hold them dear and supreme.”

As if to say, there IS honor in being humble, in humility. Always making an effort to help others, instead of always being selfish and thinking of yourself first. Imagine how incredibly different things would be if you walked into your office tomorrow and everyone would practice this! Everyone would be nice to one another. And keep in mind, you put others before you, and they put you first in return, so it’s a positive-positive. There is a reason why it feels good inside when you help out someone. Perhaps we are meant to do this more?? Yet we don’t! Why don’t we do something that feels so good more frequently then? Things to ponder about indeed. Anyways, the Path to Tranquility is full of verses as such for everyday of the year, and its inspiration is called Eight Verses for Training the Mind. It’s very soothing to the soul and puts things into a more spiritual perspective. I highly recommend it :)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tạo vườn hoa trong tâm mình

Chúng ta mở rộng tâm từ bi, sanh được tâm tùy hỷ, nhìn từng người từng việc đều tốt, nên tâm ta trở thành trăm hoa đua nở. Đó là tinh thần kinh Hoa Nghiêm gọi là chúng hoa, khác với kinh Pháp Hoa chỉ thuần có hoa sen. Chúng hoa hay tất cả các loài hoa đều xinh đẹp, vì mỗi loài hoa đều có nét đẹp riêng, có hương thơm riêng. Quan sát như vậy, tâm ta mở rộng, ta đưa tâm chúng sinh vào tâm từ bi của mình và ta tùy hỷ với mọi người, mọi loài, thấy tất cả muôn người muôn loài đều có đặc sắc riêng, đều nở hoa, tạo thành một vườn hoa dễ thương trong tâm ta. Kinh Hoa Nghiêm diễn tả ý này rằng tất cả chúng sinh đều là Phật, nghĩa là tất cả đều tốt. Trên bước đường tu, thực sự thể hiện được cốt tủy này theo kinh Hoa Nghiêm, chúng ta nhận thấy người nào cũng có điểm tốt, điểm đáng mến và ta quan hệ với cái tốt của họ, chắc chắn họ sẽ có thiện cảm với ta.

Tạo vườn hoa trong tâm mình và tạo vườn hoa trong xã hội; đó chính là nét đẹp của Phật giáo trong việc xây dựng mô hình Tịnh độ trên cõi nhân gian này cũng như trong khắp mười phương. Ươm tạo vườn hoa trong tâm chúng ta thì người thương ta, họ chạm phải tâm từ bi hỷ xả của chúng ta, họ càng thương quý ta hơn. Còn người tìm đến chúng ta để kích động ý thức hận thù, họ cũng sẽ được năng lực từ bi hỷ xả của chúng ta chuyển hóa, làm dập tắt lửa hận thù trong họ. Giặc phiền não trong ta tới Bồ đề là tới tâm từ bi hỷ xả thì phiền não này tan và giặc bên ngoài cũng tan theo, vì mất sự tác động của giặc phiền não bên trong.

Tóm lại, thực tập đúng pháp Phật, tâm chúng ta an lạc, người thân hiện tiền sống cạnh mình tất nhiên được an lạc và người thân đã qua đời tiếp cận chúng ta qua tâm cũng sẽ an lạc theo. Nếu tâm chúng ta bất an sẽ tạo sự bất an cho những người thân cận hiện hữu lẫn người ở thế giới vô hình. Và ngược lại, những người ở thế giới âm bị khổ đau cũng sẽ ảnh hưởng đến cuộc sống của chúng ta. Có thể nói người sống và người chết bất an chịu sự tác động hỗ tương lẫn nhau làm cho gia đình bất an, xã hội bất an.

Bước theo dấu chân Phật, nỗ lực tu hành, thể hiện tâm Phật trong cuộc sống của chúng ta chính là xây dựng một gia đình hạnh phúc, góp phần tạo dựng xã hội phát triển tốt đẹp, đồng thời ảnh hưởng đến những người chết oan ức được tưới mát bằng tâm từ bi hỷ xả, khiến họ cũng được an lạc, siêu thoát. Âm siêu dương thạnh là như thế.


HT Thích Trí Quảng

Articles from Urban Monk

UrbanMonk.Net provides an additional voice on recreating yourself gently from the inside out. From inner joy and self-esteem to outer success and romance, all change begins from deep inside you.

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  • Our external world has been covered extensively as well; you can find information on a myriad of other topics – from passion and purpose in life, to romance, loneliness, and social skills.
  • The material here draws upon modern psychology, ancient spirituality, and everything in between – with a practical twist. Everything used here has been tested and proven to make a tremendous difference in my own life.
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What do you want out of your life? Let the choices below guide you to the appropriate sections.

Note: This page collects the bigger series as an introduction, and do not represent all the blog has to offer. Many articles are more specialised – these can be accessed in the full archives.

Emotional Mastery

Perhaps the most important series on this site, I believe the first step to finding joy is to stop running away from all our sorrows and frustrations. Turn around and face them, and in doing so, heal them. Inner joy will begin to come naturally. Prolonged work in this area has allowed me to permanently beat everything from depression and rage to everyday unhappiness. The follow-up posts focus on going deeper to find your core wounds and insecurities, as well as focus on specific emotions and obstacles.

Guilt and Self-Punishment

Guilt is one of the most insidious and common afflictive emotions. This series provides a different perspective, a realisation that can provide a sudden freedom from the sadness and torment.

Love and Romance

A fine compliment, a positive counterpart, to the Emotional Mastery series, this series begins with finding love. Many of our attempts to find love are fundamentally flawed, for we have not begun with the most important person. Self-love is the key to true self-esteem. Additionally, we cover loneliness and attachment – fundamental issues in any relationship, or lack of one.


Compassion is the result of a rising consciousness. It has to be happen naturally; or pain and suffering might be the result. What are the perils of compassion; what does the flower of genuine compassion look like? Closely entwined with the Love series, this series is one of the most popular amongst readers.

Setting Personal Boundaries

One of the most important steps in one’s journey is learning how to protect ourselves, to give ourselves a space to heal and strengthen. And yet - are personal boundaries a sign of selfishness? This series explores the topic in detail, together with solid strategies to build your boundaries - and when the time comes - relax them.

The Ego

A rapidly evolving series that changes as my own understanding grows; the series begins with providing the key to mindfulness. Being mindful of your negative thoughts and tendencies slowly leads to deep transformation. With certain sections cross-referenced with modern cognitive therapy, this series is considered UrbanMonk.Net’s flagship content. The follow up posts reflect the changes in my own understanding – moving slowly into deeper philosophical concepts like time and oneness.

Mental Distortions and Mastery

Based on the current force in therapy and psychology – Cognitive Therapy – this is in many ways a follow up to the previous works on emotional mastery and the ego. With both the emotional and mental series in your toolbox, I believe there is no area of our inner world that will remain unchanged for the better. This series involves reframing and finding the painful distortions in our perceptions and thoughts, and empowers us to take positive action and find a measure of peace.

Stopping Negative thoughts

A cousin to the above series, this draws on an ancient sutra, combined with modern psychological techniques, to provide a comprehensive list of practical techniques to calm your unruly mind.

Passion and Purpose in Life

One of the most frequent important questions raised revolves around finding passion and purpose in life. This series draws from many sources – ranging from the current positive psychology movement, ancient spirituality, and notably from the works of one of the greatest thinkers – Aristotle. It covers many aspects of the search – the inner end goal, your own purpose, and the biggest error we make in selecting a purpose. It also includes a comprehensive post on overcoming the fears and obstacles in your way.

Greatness and Success

A companion series to the above, this series take a look at a different definition of success and greatness. Do we compare ourselves to others, do we hinder them? Do we think we need to struggle to get to where we want to go? What are some alternatives – powerful choices that will make a difference in getting to where you want to be?


Gratitude is not just a spiritual phenomenon; recent psychological studies have proven that the sustained practice of gratitude makes a significant difference in our lives and happiness. How do we practice it, and what exactly does it do? How can we use it to get what we want?


Another powerful tool in getting to where you want to be is visualisation. This is not just a metaphysical technique; it is part of sports psychology and has been put to use by world-level athletes, businessmen, and other success stories. Develop your visualisation and also find a few methods of applying them – an action plan, and especially in asserting yourself.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Precepts and Environment

Dharma Discourse by John Daido Loori, Roshi

Imagine, if you will, a universe in which all things have a mutual identity. They all have a codependent origination: when one thing arises, all things arise simultaneously. And everything has a mutual causality: what happens to one thing happens to the entire universe. Imagine a universe that is a self-creating, self-maintaining, and self-defining organism—a universe in which all the parts and the totality are a single entity, all of the pieces and the whole thing at once, one thing. This description of reality is not a holistic hypothesis or an all-encompassing idealistic dream. It is your life and my life. The life of the mountain and the life of the river. The life of a blade of grass, a spiderweb, the Brooklyn Bridge. These things are not related to each other. They're not part of the same thing. They're not similar. Rather, they are identical to each other in every respect. But the way we live our lives is as if that were not so. We live our lives in a way that separates the pieces, alienates and hurts.

The Buddhist Precepts are a teaching on how to live our lives in harmony with the facts described above. When we look at the Precepts, we normally think of them in terms of people. Indeed, most of the moral and ethical teachings of the great religions address relationships among people. But these Precepts do not exclusively pertain to the human realm. They are talking about the whole universe and we need to see them from that perspective if we are to benefit from what they have to offer, and begin healing the rift between ourselves and the universe.

First among the sixteen Precepts are the Three Treasures. We take refuge in the Three Treasures--the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Understood from three different perspectives, the Three Treasures present different virtues. The first perspective is called the One-Bodied Three Treasures, the second is called the Realized Three Treasures, and the third is called the Maintained Three Treasures.

From the perspective of the One-Bodied Three Treasures, anuttara-samyaksambodhi, supreme enlightenment, is the Buddha Treasure. Being pure, genuine, apart from the dust is the Dharma Treasure. The reason it is apart from the dust is that it is the dust. That is what the virtue of purity is about. There is nothing outside of it. The merits of harmony are the Sangha Treasure. Together, these are the One-Bodied Three Treasures. To realize and actualize Bodhi or enlightenment is the Buddha Treasure of the Realized Three Treasures. The realization of Buddha is the Dharma Treasure, and to penetrate into the Buddhadharma is the Sangha Treasure. These are the Realized Three Treasures. Among the Maintained Three Treasures, their manifestation in the world, guiding the heavens and guiding people, sometimes appearing in vast emptiness, sometimes appearing in dust, is the Buddha Treasure. Sometimes revolving sutras and sometimes revolving the oceanic storehouse, guiding inanimate things and guiding animate things, is the Dharma Treasure. And freed from all suffering and liberated from the house of the Three Worlds is called the Sangha Treasure. This is what we take refuge in. These Three Treasures are the universe itself. They are the totality of the environment and oneself.

Next are the Three Pure Precepts. The first of the Three Pure Precepts is not creating evil. This is based on the assumption that there is an inherent purity and goodness in the universe. Actually, there is neither goodness nor badness, neither good nor evil. These polarities don't exist until we create them. This precept is saying that not creating evil is the abiding place of all Buddhas, the source of all Buddhas. The second of the Three Pure Precepts is practicing good. Not to create evil means not to get involved in any activity that is going to give rise to evil. Although from the absolute perspective, there is neither good nor evil, every activity is going to create some consequence in the world of phenomena. The minute there is action, either good or evil comes up. So, do not let evil come up, but rather practice good. This is the Dharma of samyaksambodhi, the way of all beings. The third of the Three Pure Precepts is actualizing good for others. This is to transcend the profane and go beyond the holy, to liberate oneself and others. The Three Pure Precepts are a definition of harmony in an inherently perfect universe, a universe that is totally interpenetrated, codependent, and mutually arising. But the question is, how do we accomplish that perfection?

The Ten Grave Precepts point that out. Looking at the Ten Grave Precepts in terms of how we relate to our environment is a step in the direction of appreciating the continuous, subtle and vital role we play in the well-being of this planet—a beginning of taking responsibility for the whole catastrophe.

The First Grave Precept is "Affirm life—do not kill." What does it mean to kill the environment? It's the worst kind of killing. We are decimating many species. There is no way that these life forms can ever return to the earth. The vacuum their absence creates cannot be filled in any other way, and such a vacuum affects everything else in the ecosystem, no matter how infinitesimally small it is. We are losing species by the thousands every year, the last of their kind on the face of this great Earth. And because someone in South America is doing it, that doesn't mean we're not responsible. We're as responsible as if we are the one who clubs an infant seal or burns a hectare of tropical forest. It is as if we were squeezing the life out of ourselves. Killing the lakes with acid rain. Dumping chemicals into the rivers so that they cannot support any life. Polluting our skies so our children choke on the air they breath. Life is nonkilling. The seed of the Buddha grows continuously. Maintain the wisdom life of Buddha and do not kill life.

The Second Grave Precept is "Be giving—do not steal." Do not steal means not to rape the Earth. To take away from the insentient is stealing. The mountain suffers when you clear-cut it. Clear cutting is stealing the habitat of the animals that live on the mountain. When we over-cut, streams become congested with the sediments that wash off the mountain slopes. This is stealing the life of the fish that live in the river, of the birds that come to feed on the fish, of the mammals that come to feed on the birds. Be giving, do not steal. The mind and externals are just thus, the gate of liberation is open.

The Third Grave Precept is "Honor the body—do not misuse sexuality." Honor the body of Nature. When we begin to interfere with the natural order of things, when we begin to engineer the genetics of viruses and bacteria, plants and animals, we throw the whole ecological balance off. Our technological meddling affects the totality of the universe and there are karmic consequences to that. The three wheels: body, mind, and mouth; greed, anger, and ignorance are pure and clean. Nothing is desired. Go the same way as the Buddha, do not misuse sexuality.

The Fourth Grave Precept is "Manifest truth—do not lie." One of the very common kinds of lying popular these days is called green-washing. Green-washing is like whitewashing: it pretends to be ecologically sound and politically correct. You hear Monsanto Chemical Company tell us how wonderful they are and how sensitive they are to the environment. Exxon tells us the same thing. The plastic manufacturers tell us the same thing. Part of what they are saying is true. You couldn't have a special pump for failing hearts without plastic. You couldn't have an oxygen tent without plastic. Sure, fine, thank you. But stop making plastic cups and plates that are not biodegradable and are filling up the dumps. Another kind of lying is the lying that we do to ourselves about our own actions. We go off into the woods, and rather than take the pains to haul out the non-biodegradable stuff that we haul in, we hide it. We sink the beer cans, bury the cellophane wrappings under a root. We know we have done it, but we act as though it didn't happen. Gain the essence and realize the truth. Manifest it and do not lie.

The Fifth Grave Precept is "Proceed clearly—do not cloud the mind." Do not cloud the mind with greed, do not cloud the mind with denial. It is greed that is one of the major underlying causes of pollution. We can solve all the problems. We have all the resources to do it. We can deal with our garbage, we can deal with world hunger, we can deal with the pollution that comes out of the smokestacks. We have the technology to do it, but it is going to cost a lot of money, which means that there will be less profit. If there is less profit, people will have to make do with a little bit less, and our greed won't let us do that. Proceed clearly, do not cloud the mind with greed.

The Sixth Grave Precept is "See the perfection—do not speak of others errors and faults." For years we have manicured nature because in our opinion nature didn't know how to do things. That manicuring continues right here, on the shores of our river. We have concluded that the river is wrong. It erodes the banks and floods the lowlands. It needs to be controlled. So we take all the curves out of it, line the banks with stone, and turn it into a pipeline. This effectively removes all the protective space that the waterbirds use to reproduce in, and the places where the fish go to find shelter when the water rises. Then the first time there is a spring storm the ducks' eggs and the fish wash downstream into the Ashokan Reservoir and the river is left barren. Or we think there are too many deer, so we perform controlled genocide. Or the wolves kill all the livestock, so we kill the wolves. Every time we get rid of one of species we create an incomprehensible impact and traumatize the whole environment. The scenario changes and we come up with another solution. We call this process wildlife management. What is this notion of wildlife management? See the perfection, do not speak of nature's errors and faults.

The Seventh Grave Precept is "Realize self and other as one—do not elevate the self and put down others." Do not elevate the self and put down nature. We hold a human-centered notion of the nature of the universe and the nature of the environment. We believe God put us in charge, and we live out that belief. The Bible confirms that for us. We live as though the universe were spinning around us with man at the center of the whole picture. We are convinced that the multitude of things are there to serve us, and so we take without any sense of giving. That is elevating the self and putting down nature. In this universe, where everything is interpenetrated, codependent and mutually arising, nothing stands out above anything else. We are inextricably linked and nobody is in charge. The universe is self-maintaining. Buddhas and ancestors realize the absolute emptiness and realize the great earth. When the great body is manifested there is neither inside or outside. When the Dharma body is manifested there is not even a single square inch of earth on which to stand. It swallows it. Realize self and other as one. Do not elevate the self and put down nature.

The Eighth Grave Precept is "Give generously—do not be withholding." We should understand that giving and receiving are one. If we really need something from nature, we should vow to return something to nature. We are dependent on nature, no question about it. But there is a difference between recognizing dependency and entering it consciously and gratefully, and being greedy. Native Americans lived amidst the plenty of nature for thousands of years. They fed on the buffalo when they needed that type of sustenance. We nearly brought that species to extinction in two short decades. It wasn't for food. Tens of thousands of carcasses rotted while we took the skins. It is the same with our relationship to elephants, seals, alligators, and countless others. Our killing has nothing to do with survival. It has nothing to do with need. It has to do with greed. Give generously, do not be withholding.

The Ninth Grave Precept is "Actualize harmony—do not be angry." Assertive, pointed action can be free of anger. We can fence the deer out of our garden and prevent them from eating our vegetables without hating the deer. Also, by simply being patient and observing the natural cycles we can avoid unnecessary headaches and emotional outbreaks. Usually we will discover that the things we think get in the way are really not in the way. When the gypsy moths descended in swarms one year and ate all the leaves off the trees so that in the middle of June the mountain looked like it was late fall, the local community got hysterical. We made an all-out attack. Planes came daily and sprayed the slopes with chemicals. People put tar on the bases of trees to trap the caterpillars. The gypsy moths simply climbed up, got stuck in the tar and piled up so others could crawl across the backs of the dead ones and went up the trees to do what they needed to do. Amidst all of these disasters, with the leaves gone and the shrubbery out of the shade, the mountain laurel bloomed like it had never bloomed before. I had no idea we had so much mountain laurel on this mountain. However, the gypsy moths definitely damaged the trees. The weak trees died. By the time July came around, there were new leaves on the trees, and the mountain was green again. But the anger and the hate we felt during those spring months was debilitating and amazing. The air was filled with it.

In another incident, the fellow who owned the house that is now the monastery abbacy had beavers on his property. They were eating up his trees so he decided to exterminate them. A neighbor told him that they were protected, so he called the DEC. The rangers trapped and removed the animals. When we moved into the house, however, a pair of beavers showed up and immediately started taking down the trees again. In fact, they chomped down a beautiful weeping willow that my students presented to me as a gift. I was supposed to sit under it in my old age, but now it was stuck in a beaver dam, blocking up the stream. With the stream dammed, the water rose and the pond filled with fish. With the abundance of fish, ducks arrived. That brought in the fox and the osprey. Suddenly the whole environment came alive because of those two beavers. Of course, they didn't stay too long because we didn't have that much wood, so after two seasons they moved on. Nobody was taking care of the dam. The water leaked out and the pond disappeared. It will be like that until the trees grow back and the next pair of beavers arrive. If we can just keep our fingers out of it and let things unfold, nature knows how to maintain itself. It creates itself and defines itself, as does the universe. And, by the way, the weeping willow came back, sprouted again right from the stump. It leans over the pond watching me go through my cycles these days.

The Tenth Grave Precept is "Experience the intimacy of things—do not defile the Three Treasures." To defile is to separate. The Three Treasures is this body and the body of the universe, and when we separate ourselves from ourselves, and from the universe, we defile the Three Treasures.

To practice the Precepts is to be in harmony with your life and the universe. To practice the Precepts means to be conscious of what they are about—not just on the surface, but on many levels, plummeting the depths of the Precepts. It means being deeply honest with yourself. When you become aware you have drifted away from the Precepts, just acknowledge that fact. That acknowledgment means to take responsibility for your life; taking responsibility plays a key role in our practice. If you don't practice taking responsibility you are not practicing. It is as simple as that. There is nobody checking when you are doing zazen whether you're letting go of your thoughts or sticking with them. It has to do with your own honesty and integrity. Only you know what you are doing with your mind.

It is the same with the Precepts. Only you know when you have actually violated a precept. And only you can be at one with that violation, can atone. To be at one with it means to take responsibility. To take responsibility means to acknowledge yourself as the master of your life. To take responsibility empowers you to do something about whatever it is that's hindering you. As long as we blame, as long as we avoid or deny, we are removed from the realm of possibility and power to do something about our lives. We become totally dependent upon the ups and downs that we create around us. There is no reason that we should be subjected to anything when we have the power to see that we create and we destroy all things. To acknowledge that simple fact is to take possession of the Precepts. It is to make the Precepts your own. It is to give life to the Buddha, this great earth, and the universe itself.

John Daido Loori, Roshi is the abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery. A successor to Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi, Roshi, Daido Roshi trained in rigorous koan Zen and in the subtle teachings of Master Dogen, and is a lineage holder in the Soto and Rinzai schools of Zen.