Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Anti-Life Equation - the contagious effect of negative people

Do you have negative or toxic people in your life? You know what I mean, the types of people who just suck the air out of a room and can rarely say anything without tearing others apart, or be condescending to so many around them?

I'm sure many of us have encountered people like this in our time in this realm. Sometimes they are strangers. Sometimes they are family. Sometimes they are co-workers.

The latter two can make things especially difficult, as the common advice you will hear from Buddhists or even Psychiatrists is to "remove toxic people from your life."

In fact, here is an excerpt from "Being Buddha at Work" by B.J. Gallagher and Franz Metcalf:

"THE BUDDHA DOESN'T mince words with his advice: avoid whiners, chronic complainers, and any other negative people.

Avoid them like the plague. Why? Because it's contagious. Just as a drunk wants you drunk, too, if you're going to be around him, so whiners want you to join in their whining. It's easy to get sucked into the negative energy of negative people-we all have frustrations and complaints about work, and sometimes it even seems like fun to join in the pile-on of cynicism and anger.

But don't do it. Resist the pack mentality that transforms these negative people into jackals. Run away if you must.

Instead, seek out positive people at work. Look for people who are up to something good and hang out with them."

They are right. It is contagious. How quickly when someone snaps at us or takes a condescending tone do we immediately place ourselves on the defensive, ready to strike back with our own comment or tone because we feel attacked?

I myself have fallen into that trap and reacted that way many a time, often times doing nothing to alleviate the situation. Instead, it just keeps the cycle of viciousness going, likely raising one's stress levels and blood pressure in the process.

Should we be forsaking our own mental and physical health because this one person will not let up?

I'm trying to learn from past snaps and take a more laid back approach. Sometimes, meeting a snarky question with a laid-back "good point," or "interesting question" can keep you from flying off the handle, the way our defense mechanisms immediately make us want to react. Sometimes it can make the person who is treating you poorly frustrated because they aren't getting to you.

Remember when on the schoolyard someone would bother you and your parents would say "just show them it doesn't bother you." Tough? Absolutely. In time, however, what is their point of going after someone who is not bothered by their attacks?

I don't know how familiar any of you are with the work of comic book legend Jack Kirby, but among the plethora of his creations was a character called Darkseid, an evil tyrant form a world known as Apokolips. On the fiery planet of Apokolips, with the exception of Darkseid's minions, all people are enslaved and hope has been wiped from their minds.

In those tales, Darkseid was always on a quest for what was referred to as "the anti-life equation."

The Anti-Life Equation is the equation for total control over the minds of sentient beings, and is the reason that Darkseid sends his armies to Earth, as he believes part of the equation exists in the human subconscious. Naturally, he often runs afoul of the likes of Superman and other heroes. Various comics have defined the equation in different ways, but a common interpretation seems to be that the equation is a mathematical proof of the futility of living.

They want you to give in to their own anti-life equation, abandon your  hope for a brighter tomorrow or life and be miserable with them.

But you don't have to. You can resist.

It will be tough and there will be days that you feel like giving in or lashing out.

Do not.

Let them choke on their own hate. They feed off your despair and without it, you will force them to starve.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wake Up

Buddhism comes from the word 'budhi,' meaning to wake up, thus the reason Buddhism is the path to awakening.

These bits of graffiti caught my eye on the way to work on several mornings, and it made me wonder if these graffiti artists knew they were, in their own way, spreading the message of Buddhism.

We can walk through this life asleep very easily. It is only when we can take it upon ourselves to stop, look around, and wake up to the world around us that we can truly evolve, truly awaken, and truly be happy and know who we are.

"Wake up, Sheeple," indeed. :)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Time ticks away...get out and live

"Time, Time,
Time, see what's become of me,
While I look around for my possibilities."

These lyrics are from a classic song by Paul Simon, called "A Hazy Shade of Winter," a song that, like most of Paul Simon's work, I love very much.

I've been thinking a lot about time as of late. I know I have yet it on this blog, but my wife and I are going to be parents soon. Very soon. Such as, a few weeks soon. Time has flown by and I can not believe that nine months has gone by as swiftly as it did.

When we first found out we were expecting, I spent several months in a constant "list" mode, thinking only of everything that had to be done and crossed off that list. By about month 7 or 8, all of a sudden it hit me like a brick - this is the ONLY time, ever, that this will be your first child. This is the ONLY time, ever, that you will have where life is like this before you are, a family, with a child.

Suddenly, I took a step back. I wish it hadn't taken me 8 months to do so, but I'm glad it hit me when it did.

Ferris Bueller was right. "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Today is the only time we get today. I implore you, folks, don't let it pass you by. Embrace it. Love it. Live it.

It is one of the greatest feelings in the world when you do.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Oh, Magoo, you've done it again!" OR the true gifts in our lives

With the holidays comes all the classic Christmas specials that I loved all my life, just as many before me have. You know the classics I'm talking about - the Rankin Bass Stop-Motion Rudolph, Frosty, Charlie Brown.

Well, while skimming across channels this past week, my wife and I came across an obscure animated holiday classic on the Canadian channel. (You've got to love those Canadians, they air the best stuff this time of year...and don't overload you with these 'new' holiday specials that are all CGI and no heart.) But I digress...

That obscure Christmas special I speak of was "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" from 1962. That's right - Mr. Magoo had his own version of a Christmas Carol, with him playing Ebenezer Scrooge, no less.

Now, why am I mentioning all of this back story? Because during one of the songs (yes, there were song numbers), Magoo as Scrooge sings the following line once he's learned about the wonder of generosity:

"Ringle, ringle, coins when they jingle, make such a lovely sound. Give them away and nobody can rob you. "

Well, I've had this one lyric playing around in my head ever since and it really got me thinking. Scrooge learned a very valuable lesson that day - that the items that some of us value so very much, to the point of obsession - money, the latest electronics, etc - are absolutely nothing once we leave this realm, aside from becoming the target of some underhanded grave robber.

That thought doesn't even need to apply to after our deaths. Think of, unfortunately, how many terrible robberies and burglaries we hear about in the news on a daily basis. So many of the times, what do we hear is taken? Money, electronics, fashionable, expensive items.

Remember a ways back we talked about giving things away? Well that song lyric sort of triggered that memory and line of thought for me.

I think Magoo and Scrooge were really on to something.

Hold onto and cherish the things that are truly important in this life - your family, your spouse or significant other, your children, your pets, your friends - all the things that bring love into your life. Therein lies your true value.

As Harry Bailey said in "It's a Wonderful Life" - "to my brother, George. The richest man in town!" Not because of any wealth he had accumulated. After all, he was practically broke, with three kids living in a run down old, drafty house. But because of the lives he enriched simply by being a giving person.

It's not about objects we can have. That just becomes fodder and targets for the jealous and unsavory who want to take it.

Cherish and appreciate those LIVES that you've touched and touched yours. That feeling of love is something nothing and no one can take from you, in this life, or after.

I can't think of a better gift this holiday season than that.

Love to you all.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Would have, could have, should have...

I think I might have been channeling something when I suddenly woke up from a sound sleep at 4:54 a.m. this morning and jotted the following down in the notepad next to the bed before falling right back asleep. I thought I'd share what I found when I looked at the notepad this morning:

"You can look back on your life and say 'I should have done this' or 'I'd tell my younger self this,' but in all likelihood, your younger self would not have listened and done it anyway. You have to accept the foibles and fumbles of life for what they are - the trials and tribulations that make life what it is - interesting, and make us who we are - unique."

Monday, April 18, 2011

I'm a Soul Man

I've been thinking a lot about the soul lately.

I can't quite say with any certainty what's brought this on, but it's certainly been on my mind quite a bit.

I think of those family and friends who have passed and I wonder, what has become of them?

Every time I look out my window and see my 93 year old neighbor, I get filled with a sense of dread for the day when he will no longer be there, washing his dishes and waving.

I was raised Catholic, and with that came the belief of heaven, the afterlife, your soul ascending, etc, etc. The older I got, and the more I learned beyond those small walls of catholic school and church, the harder this became to accept - at least in the way it was taught to me.

Don't get me wrong - I believe in something - an essence, a life force, a soul. Whatever you want to label it, I truly feel there is something in each of us.

And I often times find myself frustrated that the same people who want to insist upon me their so-called "correct" beliefs of heaven, hell, etc, etc, maintains that idea of a soul...and yet, they also want me to believe that the soul is only found in that of human beings?

I call spiritual B-S.

I take one look at the world around me and it becomes increasingly clear that there is a life essence inside each and every living thing. The next time your dog looks up at you and stares in to your eyes, I'm sorry, but there's no way you can tell me there is not a soul in there. Sure, they may not act like you (a human), or communicate like you (a human), but that's because they aren't human.

But why in the world does that automatically make some people believe that they can't have a soul? It's not only quite preposterous to me, it's also quite egocentric. How can you try and convince me of the existence of a soul and afterlife, etc, and then have the narrow-minded and self-important point of view to say 'but it's only for humans, you know.' Hogwash.

This universe is made up of so many unique and individual beings - all connected to each other in some way. If you are alive, there's something in you, something deep inside that makes up who you are - whether you're the 93 year old living next door to me, or the cat sitting on the sidewalk as I walk by, or the dog running down the street to say hello to me, or that tree in the front yard.

I know this entry seems more like rant than a reflection, but I feel like I just need to get it out and into words, even if those words are a bit rambling.

I believe in the soul (or the essence, or whatever name we'll use today), but I believe in it universally.

So the next time that pet of yours looks up at you, the next time that tree you love to sit under moves in the wind, or that cat on the street meows at you - take a look deep into your heart and you might just feel the connection I'm talking about, and feel the life force, the soul, that connects all of us, human and non-human on this wacky little planet called Earth.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Being a sick Buddhist is still better than being healthy and self-involved

My wife and I have both been sick lately. Nothing serious, just the annoying throat/head/nose type of ailment that hits many people this time of year. With that in mind, I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to look at a Buddhist perspective or adage on sickness, and came across the following in my search:

"The key to battling illness lies in summoning a vigorous life-force and a positive fighting spirit. This brings out the full effectiveness of a curative treatment."- by Daisaku Ikeda

I liked this because it really brings things back to the idea of the energy you put out is the energy you get back. Okay, you're feeling under the weather, but summon up that fighting spirit of yours - the one that doesn't let you wallow in self-pity, the one that says "there's still stuff to be done," and step up to plate and force those ailments out of your life force.

"A sick body with a good heart is more beneficial to future lives than a fit, healthy body that is used for self-cherishing." - by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

If your heart is still in the right place, if you're still practicing a life towards helping others and not one of self-importance and self-involvement, then even sick-you is doing more in the world than the other. There are people, who are seriously ill, who still use their energy, their mind, and their focus, toward aiding and assisting others. Sadly, there are those, who even on their healthiest days still only see with the blinded eyes of self-absorption or self-involvement.

Once again, I can't help but quote Paul McCartney - "the love you take is equal to the love you make." :)