This probably won’t go anywhere but you can’t blame someone for trying. Basically, I want to start an online community for people to meditate together. How am I going to do this? A hashtag.

So what is the hashtag? It’s #MeditateWithMe. The idea is very simple. When you’re about to meditate, you use the hashtag and hopefully it might encourage someone else to meditate at the same time as you, somewhere else in the world. Who knows? You might make a friend or two on the way.

As with most things, meditation can be practiced alone but it’s better as part of a community. I have practiced meditation for years but the few times I’ve done it with other people it made it feel special. If like me, you live somewhere where there isn’t really a community of people to meditate with, the internet is the next best thing!

You can follow the hashtag on Facebook here and Twitter here.

I’ve made an image for it too. It’s public domain so go for gold sharing it or whatever:

Thoughts on karma

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!

What the noble eightfold path means to me

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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”
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

What the four noble truths mean to me

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:

  1. “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.
  2. “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.
  3. “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.
  4. “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.

Five rules to live your life by

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.

Mindfulness knowledge should be free

Mindfulness doesn’t cost anything. You need to find out how to practice it and then you’re good to go. There are apps, books, websites all about it and it’s a very helpful tool.

However, it really bugs me when I see people charging for this knowledge. I know that people need to make ends meet but I argue that if you believe so much in a message you would want to share it with as many people as possible without the “paying to find out about it” part.

I’ve learnt a Hell of stuff from Buddhism and it’s so out of copyright it’s unreal but people feel the need to repackage it and charge people for a thought process that is thousands of years old. How can you charge for it?

My goal in life is to share what I’ve learnt and share it freely with people. I want to spread the message of mindfulness and Buddhism as far as I can. I’m not sure how I can do it but it’s something I want to do and to do it for free.

I am setting up mirrors of this blog onto various free “mirror” sites in the hope that there will be a backup should there ever be a reason for my blog to not be around.

I don’t know if I’ll achieve what I want to achieve but I can only hope.