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.
What would happen if you tripled the US population? Join Matthew Yglesias and Charles Duhigg at 1pm ET on Monday, September 28.
Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live.
Having been exposed to mavericks in the French culinary world at a young age, three-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn made it her mission to cook in a way that is not only delicious and elegant, but also expressive, memorable, and true to her experience.
Controversial physics theory says reality around us behaves like a computer neural network.
- Physicist proposes that the universe behaves like an artificial neural network.
- The scientist's new paper seeks to reconcile classical physics and quantum mechanics.
- The theory claims that natural selection produces both atoms and "observers".
Vanchurin interview:<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="539759cbfd8fcd5b6ebf14a3b597b3f9"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bmyRy2-UhEE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Vanchurin on “Hidden Phenomena”:<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="18886ffd5e5840bb19d4494212f88d82"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/2NDVdNwsHCo?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>Vitaly Vanchurin speaking at the 6th International FQXi Conference, "Mind Matters: Intelligence and Agency in the Physical World." The Foundational Questions...
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