I had a little day out today. Well, it was in a way, it was more of a very packed four hours. I needed to pick up a few things from the city and I have a little competition with myself to see what my quickest time is. This might just be my benchmark.
When I shop, I don’t mess around. I have a list of things I need to get, I know the shops I need to go in. I even know the rough order of the shops I’ll be visiting. I’m not someone who gets joy from window shopping.
Today was three shops with a strict list of items. I deviated but it was a cheap shop so no big deal and it was stuff that I needed. I also factored in getting some lunch. I took it with me. I had a flask of coffee, a sandwich and a packet of crisps. Some people may think this very cheap of me but I argue that it’s dumb to buy food that you already have at home. Granted a coffee shop coffee will taste better but as a rule, they’re an expensive and it’s silly to waste money.
I’m going through a kick of saving money where I can. There’s a fine line between saving money and wasting money. It’s a subject that I will touch upon on my other website when I get a chance.
I had plans for today but they fell through. It’s a shame but it happens. I was doing my usual routine and I start getting a headache. When I get a headache I have a check list of things to check with myself.
Am I hydrated?
Am I hungry?
When was the last time I had a cup of tea?*
Am I tired?
I drank some water, I had just had breakfast, I had a cup of tea with my breakfast and I had just got up. I was a little puzzled. So I took some painkillers and hoped for the best. I don’t like taking painkillers because if you take them too much, they become less effective.
My headache got worse. Shit. Is it a migraine? I took to my bed.
After three hours my headache was a dull ache. I ate some lunch and carried on with my day. Unfortunately I was looking to go into the city to do some shopping. It was too late now and I wasn’t sure if my headache had completely gone. There’s always tomorrow.
I nipped to my local shop and on my way back I realized that I hadn’t “smelled a flower” yet. I’ve been spending time at my parents house and they are in a rural area and flowers are more abundant. As I was walking back I saw a purple rose. I stopped and inhaled the scent. I became aware of walking, suddenly stopping to smell a flower and then getting on with my day. Anyone walking by would think I was mad. But I figured if anyone asked me what I was doing, I was going to tell them. Why not? I might be able to inspire them to do what I’m doing. As weird as it is.
*I have a tea / caffeine addiction. If I don’t have a cup of tea for a period of time, I get withdrawal and it’s unpleasant.
I am making a point of taking my time and being present in the moment. I recently posted on my other blog that it’s important to “stop and smell the flowers“. Every day since I posted that, I have made a point of smelling at least one flower. In turn, that has gotten me to go for more walks.
I enjoy walking. I enjoy that I can go at my own pace. Providing I have shoes and the energy to go for a walk, I can go for a walk. I prefer walking in the countryside. Walking in a town or city isn’t the same. I’m a country boy and I miss nature if I don’t get to see it as much as I’d like.
I don’t even mind going on the same walk multiple times. I enjoy when I’m able to find different nuances from the walk.
We all strive for the same thing. We all want happiness. We want to minimize pain and suffering in our lives. Every animal on this planet wants this. Since we all want this why do we let ourselves get distracted by other things that can cause us and other people misery?
Life is a collection of temporary obstacles that we eventually navigate. We get too caught up with some obstacles. We must remain level headed and accept that certain situations and arise and cause us pain but they pass.
As an atheist who doesn’t believe in things that cannot be proved you might find it interesting to find that I believe in karma.
Karma is something that can affect us from day-to-day. If we go about our day being polite, courteous and civil to everyone we meet, others will follow suit. If we do nice things for people (acts of random kindness) those people will be more inclined to do the same for other people. It’s not an exact science but it makes sense.
I’ve recently had crap things happening to me including people making up stuff about me, harassing me and people involving themselves in my life even though I don’t know who they are. It’s been difficult and stressful and has left me feeling pessimistic. I’ve found myself snapping at people and things because at the moment life is feeling very unbalanced. Other people have acted badly towards me and it’ s left me acting badly too. Basically, this “bad energy” inflicted on me, I am now inflicting on others too. I need to change that behaviour. To quote the Dhammapada:
“He insulted me, he hurt me, he defeated me, he robbed me” Those who think not such thoughts will be free from hate. For hate is not conquered by hate: hate is conquered by love. This is a law eternal.
This isn’t easy but if we’re able to stop this kind of behaviour affecting our outlooks it loses all its power!
According to Buddhism, for us to achieve happiness we need to accept the four noble truths which are “Life is suffering”, “The origin of suffering is attachment”, “The cessation of suffering is attainable” and “The path to the cessation of suffering”. I’ve written about these previously but the fourth noble truth says about the path we need to go on. The path is called the Noble Eightfold Path. There are three sections in it: Wisdom (right view and intention), ethical conduct (right speech, action and livelihood) and mental development (right effort, mindfulness and concentration) Here is my understanding of the path:
Right view: As I understand it, this is to see that nothing that we do is permanent and that everything comes to an end. Actions (and non-action) have consequences. It’s to see the world for what it is.
Right intention: To me, this means that we do what we do for the right reasons. We do things without the explicit hope for gains.
Right speech: This is self explanatory. We shouldn’t use language to hurt people, we shouldn’t knowingly mislead people with our words. This bounces back to one of the five precepts: “don’t lie”
Right action: To me, this means that we should act in a way that doesn’t hurt other people. My belief in karma is that if we are good to people, they will be more inclined to be nice to others (also the opposite of that).
Right livelihood: We all need to make a living but if we’re doing things that go against the five precepts we should refrain from it. This goes along with my belief in karma. If we’re promoting activities that go against the well-being of others, we shouldn’t do it.
Right effort: To me, this means that we should do what we can to follow the noble eightfold path, to live under the five precepts and to understand the four noble truths. It doesn’t just fall into our laps.
Right mindfulness: This is to see what is going on in life rather than pay too much attention to what we think is going on. If something happens we always have to give it a back story or conceptualize it. If we pay too much attention to the way we perceive the things that go on, we’re just fooling ourselves.
Right concentration: Concentration is meditation. If we’re able to train our brains to focus on our breath or whatever we’ll be all the better for it. Our brains like to think and our minds are their own worst enemy. If we’re able to strengthen our concentration, mentally we’ll feel better.
This is just my opinions about the noble eightfold path. As with everything in Buddhism, it’s down to interpretation.
I do believe that by following the teachings of Buddhism, we can all achieve a much better level of happiness than we currently have and the most ironic thing is, it’s actually not a hard way to live.
The foundation of Buddhism is the four noble truths. These are what is considered to be the basis of understanding life and how to achieve happiness. I’ve thought about the truths on and off for the last six years and although I understand them at a base level, I don’t think I’ll ever properly understand. That’s what I love about Buddhism, it’s all down to personal interpretation. You can read something and understand the idea of it but you have to live and ponder on things to understand it completely.
Here is what my current understanding of the four noble truths are:
“Life is suffering”: This may sound very pessimistic but it isn’t. No matter how we act or the morals we keep, life is ultimately going to cause us suffering. We have bad times and they can be horrendous. We pine for the better times and when we can’t have them it causes us to be unhappy. When we’re having a good time, it is sad when it ultimately comes to an end.
“The origin of suffering is attachment”: Attachment comes in many forms. We become attached to things, people, moments in time etc. This isn’t to say that we should become cold and unloving to people. Not at all. We can become attached the idea of things. Nothing is this life is truly permanent. We cling on to our pasts and hope that things don’t change. If you hadn’t seen me for ten years I maybe the same person (at least on somewhat of a physical level) but lots about me have changed. This goes for everything in life. Nothing is permanent. Not even on a cellular level.
“The cessation* of suffering is attainable”: Well, it’s true that everything in this life can cause us suffering and unhappiness but there is a way to rid ourselves from this. It is possible.
“The path to the cessation of suffering”: The Noble Eightfold Path. I’ll be honest, this has always felt like a cop out as the fourth noble truth. It’s basically the way of living your life. I will cover this in more detail in another post but as a brief overview: Right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. Doing all that stuff will rid you of unhappiness
*a temporary or final ceasing (as of action)
It’s really fascinating. The fact that we can all understand these things on a very basic level, it’s a real journey we have to go on to properly understand and accept them.
Buddhism is interesting because we can be knowledgable about things but not understand them.
If I had to pick a religion that I most identify with I’d say it’s Buddhism. I’ve read a lot of books about it and I agree with the majority of it.I’m going to write a few posts about it and I hope that it’ll explain why.
When I sum up my outlook on life, I live my life under the saying “Don’t be a dick”. That’s the most shortened version I could come up with. It covers pretty much everything I do and don’t do. Some Christian faiths have the ten commandments, Buddhism has five:
Don’t kill: Pretty self-explanatory. This goes for humans and animals. It could be argued that eating meat is a form of killing but unless that specific animal was killed especially for you (“in your name”) then that isn’t a form of killing. I’m an occasional vegetarian. I don’t go out my way to eat meat and I’ll usually choose a vegetarian option should there be one.
Don’t steal: Again, very obvious. Taking what isn’t yours is bad. I’m not a full-blown minimalist but I believe that most people have too much stuff and feeling the need to steal somebody else’s is a step further.
No sexual misconduct: As long as it’s legal and consenting it’s ok.
Don’t lie: Lying to knowingly trick somebody isn’t good. You’ll hurt that person and other people.
Don’t drink alcohol: I would extend this to any forms of mind-altering substances too. To experience life you need a clear head and drink and drugs will not help you.
This is obviously a brief overview and as you can see, it’s very easy to keep to the five precepts of Buddhism. I’d say the majority of people are already part Buddhist.