Everything here has been wishy washy lately. I think I may be going through a quarter life crisis. I am quite homesick and frankly, tired of the Melbourne weather. I have been working two jobs for a few weeks now, still bartending at Ladida and now working during the day in a Cafe right underneath my apartment building. So convenient, but who would’ve ever thought I’d like the “day shift”? NOONE. I still do not speak for the first hour or so when I arrive at work – still waking up, ha. A big change compared to the one day shift a month I worked at Jacks. Wont be long though. Mom’s advice to me this week was to quit both of my jobs now and spend my money. A great suggestion, and I may take it! Afterall, what did I work the last seven years for? Everyone deserves indulgence, and I have worked hard – so indulge I will! As of now, however, with all of my mental breakdowns lately I am planning on taking a getaway in a couple of weeks – either flying myself and my brother to Fiji for a week, or taking a small trip by myself to Perth (westcoast of Australia). I really need a little retreat right now, so either place should do the trick.
Pros and Cons to both, but ultimately if Tarik is able to get the time off work and up for a trip, I will have a flight to Fiji with his name on it! I am in dire need of a family fix, and a week with my brother will absolutely do the trick. I also considered going to Spain, because one of my best friends Bri is spending two months there, AND my family will be in Barcelona in July on a cruise! That would’ve been ideal, but is a whole plethora of adventures I am not sure Id be ready for. Also, the flight is $2400, and I only have about a week – not really the EuroTrip I had in my head. Either way, a week out of the rain and confinement of Melbourne will be lovely.
As far as school, Ive done really well this semester. Almost all A’s, (Shocking I know!). I have my exams in about two weeks, only three of them: Business Accounting, Personal Finance, and Strategic Management. For my philosophy class, which I have been ranting and raving about for ages now – I had to write an essay on one of the philosophical topics we covered in class. I decided to write about Buddhism and the effects of meditation. I think it is a good read for everyone, so I am posting my essay on here! It had some unusual criteria like relating the philosophy to a personal experience, and discussing some of our class lectures in the essay, so those parts aren’t so informational. However, I still think it is a good example of the Buddhist way of life, one which we should all be practicing!
I hope you enjoy my essay and maybe learn something. I will keep updates on my travel plans and hopefully my quarter life crisis will cease by the next time I write. I love and miss you all – also please send good energy to my father who has surgery this week, my grandfather who is in and out of the doctors office, and my oldest brother who had spinal surgery and is still going through a difficult time. OH! And my mom lost her cell phone, so if you have any good energy left after my father grandfather and brother, send her some too ;). Love and Miss you all.
Till Next Time…
Here it is, enjoy!
Buddhism, Meditation, and Happiness
Word Count: 1380
Happiness, Buddha once said, is actually quite simple: The secret is to want what you have and not want what you don’t have. Simple though it may be, it is definitely not easy. Buddhism is a relgious faith, a moral code, and ultimately a philosophy. The philosophies of Buddhism offer a practical diagnosis of suffering individuals based on compassion and spiritual insight. Buddha’s grand gesture, so to speak, is to guide one to a life of enlightenment and happiness.
Buddhist philosophies have taken on a very Socratic approach, claiming the unexamined life isn’t a life worth living. In order to examine life, it is essential to examine and discover your true self. Buddha teaches there are two overlapping natures in each person. The first is referred to as the ordinary nature made up of fear, insecurity, and anger. The other side is known as true nature made up of wisdom, perfect, and raw emotion. The path to enlightenment is designed to bring out your true nature, and diminish the suffering that comes with ones ordinary nature. Particularly through Buddha’s path to enlightment he found his true nature and discovered that existence has three characterists, known as the Three Universal Truths: Nothing is lost in the Universe, Everything changes, and there is a Law of Cause and Effect. The first truth is based on compassion and the idea that we are an integral part of everything around us. Buddha uses a dead leaf as an example. A dead leaf turns into soil, which helps a plant grow, which spread seeds, which helps more plants grow, etc. etc. His example is to illustrate the importance of EVERY living thing, objects that should never be harmed. Buddha’s second universal truth recognizes that the only constant we have in life is the assurance that there is change. People will change, our positions will change, our ideas change, and furthermore our lives change. By embracing change, it is much easier to find happiness in the present. Finally, Buddhas third universal truth defines Karma. Karma is the idea that “what goes around comes around”, and that everything that happens in your life is based on what you did earlier. Overall, understanding the Thee Universal Truths is essential in understanding Buddhist philosophy. Buddha found that these three truths will guide the journey to enlighenment and diminish suffering.
The “suffering” Buddhism focuses so intently on refers to how attachment and self-indulgances hinder ones true nature and happiness. Attachments are part of ones consciousness and limit your vision, knowledge, freedom and awareness. Buddha saw the best way to find happiness was to rid both material attachments as well as mental attachments. Robert Miller agreed in our lecture by stating, “philisophical enlightenment is to be found in rejecting attachments and liberating oneself from them”.
In order to liberate yourself from suffering completely, Buddhists acknolwedge the Four Noble Truths. The Four Noble Truths simply recognize; there is suffering, there is a cause to the suffering, the suffering has an end, and there is a way to reach the end. The Four Noble Truths is Buddhas outline of identifying suffering and ultimately eliminitating it, through the eightfold path. The Eightfold path is designed to end all suffering and remove all elements in life that hinder ones happiness. It incorporates wisdom, ethical conduct, and mental development through eight “rights”; right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livlihood, right effort, right mindulness, and right concentration. According to Buddhist philosophy, travelling down the eightfold path will provide the ablility to find enlightenment and ultimately, true happiness.
Although the Four Noble Truths and the eightfold path to enlightenment are heavily established Buddhist philosophies, “meditation is really the centerpeice of Buddhist practice,” (“About Buddhism”, 2011). Meditation is a means to develop the mind of insight, focus, concentration, and clarity. Most importantly, meditation harmonizes the mind AND the body and positively impacts both mental and physical health. The practice brings out inner quality as a source of peace and happiness, while increasing sharpness and vitality. Oxford Universities handbook of positive psychology identifies one of the main goals of meditation as, “uncovering the positive and catalyzing our internal potential for healing and development” (Shaprio et al, 2002). Their study also suggested meditation and its capabilities is largely ingorned in the Western world. It is so extraordinary that such a simple, convenient, practice is not accredited enough in our society. Not only does meditation provide enlightenment and self-discovery, there are several medicinal remedies as well. Doctor H.L Dhar has proven through various studies that meditation works as an anti-aging medicine and is “guarateneed to reduce overall illness” (Dhar, 2008). Another study found strong evidence for “the effectiveness of the mindfulness in meditation, preventing relationship distress” (Carson, 2003). In each study, whether psychologically or medically, meditation is significant in increasing happiness and overall well being for any individual.
As previously mentioned, it is a shame that our Western culture hasn’t adopted or become comfortable with the idea of meditation. Frankly, I believe society, as a whole doesn’t exercise spirituality enough at all. Not only spirituality, simply mere mental health seems to be greatly undervalued in our culture. While doing my research I came across a statement that really struck a chord with me, “When one attains enlightenment in meditation, the reality of this self is uncovered in a intuitive and nondiscursive way, and it is seen that this self is both always here-and-now and always changing” (McDaniel, J.B.) My biggest struggle in my day to day life and journey on self-enlightenment is trying to focus on “now”. I find that I am constantly looking for something to hold onto; a new challenge, a new opportunity, something more. I have learned about myself that I do need to focus much more on the present and really try to diminish my attachments. This statement really encompasses that while you must acknowledge change, it is equally important to focus on the present.
In our lecture, Robert Miller talked about being mindful in the present while engaging in skillful thinking. He suggested that, “engaging in healthy thinking can be very positive for every individual” and when discussing meditation he referred to healthy thinking as “generating a higher state of consciousness”. At the time I wasn’t able to interpret the definition of higher consciousness or understand what it entailed. However, since the class I have taken up Kundalini Yoga at a wellness studio in the CBD and have finally discovered what Robert meant when talking about higher consciousness. I have practiced yoga for a few years, but haven’t experienced a genre like Kundalini before. Kundalini yoga specializes in meditation and the mindfulness of breathing. It is a spiritual yoga that especially practices the discipline of clarity and consciousness. Kundalini yoga is much more mentally challenging than any other yoga I have practiced. I truly have experienced a higher consciousness and clarity through just a few weeks of steady practice. I find that I have a great sense of calm after I meditate and am able to interpret life slightly differently than the hour before. To be honest, I hadn’t realized how much of an effect the meditation and yoga had on my lifestyle until my instructor, due to uncontrollable circumstances, cancelled one week of classes. That particular week I lacked in energy, my stress levels were maximized, and I was really having a difficult time making and dealing with important decisions in my life. I was questioning my own judgment and analyzing previous life decisions I have made. The only element outside the “norm” of my regular schedule was not having any yoga or meditation that week. I recognized and felt the difference in my outlook and clarity when I wasn’t meditation in comparison to when I was. That self-discovery is what led me to write my essay around Buddhism and meditation.
Overall, I have become my own real-life example of how meditation absolutely increases my happiness and fulfillment. Meditation has genuinely helped me to channel my energies and refocus them. I have learned that Buddhism is not simply a religion or set of beliefs, but a way of life. I have gained a new appreciation and respect for Buddhist philosophies, and have been actively trying to develop and practice a Buddhist lifestyle everyday.