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10 Buddhist quotes to help you navigate challenging times
The Buddha wasn't concerned with transcendence, but rather fully embodying the moment.
- Buddhism's recognition of nature's transience is particularly important right now.
- Mindfulness is an introduction to insight, which needs to be applied to navigate challenging times.
- The following 10 quotes provide a roadmap for dealing with our current struggles.
Mindfulness is one of Buddhism's major contributions to the modern world. Yet as psychotherapist Mark Epstein writes, often missed by the modern adoption of mindfulness is the fact that it serves as a practice for insight development. Mindfulness by itself, or as a performance enhancement technique (as it's often framed), misses the critical point that it is designed to teach the adherent about the transience of existence—and, as the Buddha espoused, the means for overcoming suffering associated with that fact.
While there are many religious doctrines and rituals associated with Buddhism, I find Stephen Batchelor's secular approach refreshing. While admittedly a very basic synopsis, the groundwork of Buddha's teachings are easy enough to understand: we suffer because we have taken a wrong view of existence; through training and society we are ignorant of nature. Nature, during Buddha's time (and our own), means war, pestilence, politics, and greed, as well as disease.
Far from being a recluse meditating in a forest, Buddha ran a number of communes and constantly interacted with local lords. He was, first and foremost, a statesman. He knew how society operated and devised his principles based on the environment he lived within.
Buddha was also aware of the hopes we pin on transcendence and mysticism. He generally refused to address metaphysics, instead directing everyone's attention to the present moment. The contemplative practice is not only for good times, but for all moments, including the roughest times. This is why the following Buddhist thinkers are so relevant right now.
A foundational Buddhist principle: the recognition that everything is transient. We hear it over and over right now: "I just want things to return back to normal." Normal is relative; there is no chance of returning to what was before. A new challenge has been introduced. Even if we overcome COVID-19 with a vaccine or widespread treatment, flaws in our health care and political systems have been exposed.
There is no "going back." There is only being where we are, as painful as that is for many. The Buddhist practice was designed with such moments in mind. And it is a practice, a hard-won one at that. Knowing that others have experienced such moments provide a sense of comfort as well as a framework for moving forward. The world has again changed. We must change with it.
Pema Chödrön: What to Do When You Lose It Completely
"If we commit ourselves to staying right where we are, then our experience becomes very vivid. Things become very clear when there is nowhere to escape." Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
One of the unique factors in this very politically polarized time is that a virus does not discriminate due to political beliefs. There is truly nowhere to escape during this public heath crisis, and so we are forced to confront what is right in front of us.
"Some people are content in the midst of deprivation and danger, while others are miserable despite having all the luck in the world. This is not to say that external circumstances do not matter. But it is your mind, rather than circumstances themselves, that determines the quality of your life. Your mind is the basis of everything you experience and of every contribution you make to the lives of others. Given this fact, it makes sense to train it." — Sam Harris, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion
Training includes meditation, something that Sam Harris knows well. Many of us are faced with suddenly being thrown back to the base of Maslow's pyramid. Those working in the hospitality, entertainment, and numerous other industries have to pay bills. The survival instinct is kicking in. Yet mindset still matters.
"Even if the familiar is unsatisfactory, we tend to cling to it because we are afraid of the unknown." Karen Armstrong, Buddha
The scariest aspect of the present moment is that no one knows. We can only speculate and hope experts provide the best guidance they can. That said, clinging to what was before will not help.
"If we can be open…we find that life's unpredictability is full of interesting and invigorating challenges. These challenges engage us in unexpected and unanticipated ways and allow for the freedom of unscripted responsiveness. Right Action is more than just a reaction. It springs from an attunement to the moment that the confines of convention obscure." Mark Epstein, Advice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself
"To live on this shifting ground, one first needs to stop obsessing about what has happened before and what might happen later. One needs to be more vitally conscious of what is happening now. This not to deny the reality of past and future. It is about embarking on a new relationship with the impermanence and temporality of life. Instead of hankering after the past and speculating about the future, one sees the present as the fruit of what has been and the germ of what will be. Gotama did not encourage withdrawal to a timeless, mystical now, but an unflinching encounter with the contingent world as it unravels moment to moment." Stephen Batchelor, Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist
What I've always appreciated about Buddhism is its initial refusal to discuss metaphysical concepts (thought that did come later). Here Batchelor sums up why we need to focus on what's in front of us.
Photo by Patrick Connor Klopf / Unsplash
"We cannot attain true peace of mind merely by seeking our own salvation while remaining indifferent to the welfare of others." Philip Kapleau, The Three Pillars of Zen: Teaching, Practice, and Enlightenment
If there is any singular lesson we can all learn right now, it's the reality of another Buddhist principle: interdependence. We're all in this together.
"The key, taught the Buddha, lies in not taking trauma personally. When it it seen as a natural reflection of the chaotic universe of which we are a part, it loses its edge and can become a deeper object of mindfulness." Mark Epstein, The Trauma of Everyday Life
In an individualistic culture such as America, it is easy to take affronts personally. Again, disease does not discriminate. Yes, it is predominantly attacking people with compromised immune systems, but that has nothing to do with the usual markers we use to divide societies, such as race, class, or gender. The normal definitions of self are useless in the face of a pandemic, forcing us to reconsider what "self" implies.
"Each instance of craving involved an escape from the here and now, a desire for becoming or being something or someplace other than what the present moment offered. But to seek ceaselessly some new state of being while at the same time striving for permanence was to expose oneself to frustration." Pankaj Mishra, An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World
Attachment is one of the main forms of bondage. We are, as stated, in a new world. The sooner we recognize that, the better it will be for our mental health.
"Our pains are sufferings, obviously. Our ordinary pleasures seem the opposite, but the seeker of enlightenment knows that they bring suffering by being fleeting and addictive, leaving us more discontent when we lose them than if we never had them." Robert Thurman, Inner Revolution: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Real Happiness
The tendency to avoid pain at all costs and seek pleasure has always been flawed. Now we are being collectively forced to confront that fact.
"The practice of embodied attention challenges our habitual perceptions of self and world as permanent, satisfactory, and intrinsically ours. By stabilizing attention through mindfulness and concentration, we begin to see for ourselves how pleasurable and painful feelings trigger habitual patterns of reactivity and craving. These two insights not only undermine our inclinations to hold on to what we like and to push away what we fear but open up the possibility of thinking, speaking, and acting otherwise." Stephen Batchelor, After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age
In the end, how we act in the face of adversity reveals our true character. We can't always change the external reality, but we can change how we react.
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Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.