Welcome to Mondo Samu - Questions and Answers about my self-work.

Mondō: "questions and answers"; a recorded collection of dialogues between a pupil and teacher.
Samu: Work service; meditation in work.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Savor the BOOK!

Last night I did my usual three miles of walking meditation.  When I had finished my usual meditative musings, I turned my thoughts toward an issue that has been on my mind lately.

Maintaining Mindfulness.

I have been very fortunate to have had an extraordinarily easy time losing my weight so far.  There's been a few challenges along the way, but all VERY minor.  The hardest time I have had has been recent.  I had a week long stretch where life simply demanded my time elsewhere and I was not able to do my Tai Chi in the mornings, or my walking at night for almost a solid week.  As those fell away, so did my drive to wake up and meditate in the four o'clock hour every day.  By the end of the week, I found myself struggling to get back in the swing of things.  But I am fully aware that this sounds very whiny when weight loss can be so incredibly difficult for us.  I know, I've been there...my whole life.  BUT, as it has been so easy for me this year, this minor challenge has been a little tough.  Tough enough, at least, that it got me thinking about just exactly "Why HAVE I had it so easy?"  And just exactly "Why IS it hard right now?"

That's when it came to me.  And, once again, I have Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung - as well as their book "Savor" - to thank for it!  The answer was in front of me every time I logged in to Twitter and saw "@SAVOR_the_book" or went to the web site for the Savor Sangha which is www.SavorTheBook.com.  The answer couldn't have been more perfect, if they had crafted it intentionally.  The answer was:


Instead of reading the book through, and then forgetting about it.  I recommend that you read it more than once.  Truly savor it!  Over and over again.  Or at least make highlights and notes and re-read those randomly.  Heck, if you do nothing except read "Chapter Two: Are you really appreciating the apple?" before your meals, I think you'll be reminded to be mindful while eating.  (This apple meditation has proven extremely powerful for me personally.)

I will definitely be revisiting my highlighted passages on my iPad regularly.   And, while on that subject, let me just say that the eBook version on an eReader is THE way to go for something like this.  You can gain instant access to exactly the quote or passage that you want, as well as your notes on that passage.  iBooks is kind of made for this.

Anyhow, I really loved this little bit of insight.  It made me smile, and it made perfect sense.  I'll let you know if it helps me maintain my mindfulness.  As for my week off, and subsequent struggles to get back in gear, it seems to have passed.  I'm back to eating healthier than ever, exercising daily and getting my weight moving again.  I am down 82 pounds as of today!

Are you having any struggles or issues, big or small, in sticking to your plan?  What are you doing about it?


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Savor: Mindul Eating, Mindful Living is Now In Paperback!

I saw a post on the SavorTheBook blog that they have released the paperback version of the book and they are celebrating by giving it away for *FREE*!

Anyone who reads here regularly probably knows that, while I use a variety of technology (iPhone, iPad, various apps, books and more) to assist with my weight loss and lifestyle changes, "Savor" is the foundation of my entire plan.  I aslo credit "Savor" as being the root of my success.  All the other tools are great and incredibly useful in their own ways, but without the day-to-day mindfulness techniques I learned in "Savor" I would not have been able to lose the weight.  I am thoroughly convinced of this.

Anyhow, if you want to check it out and give it a try for yourself click on the links in this post to go to their page and enter to win your *FREE* copy!  They are entering everyone who joins the Savor Community today, to win a free copy.  You can also "like" their post on FaceBook for a chance to win.

You can find them on FaceBook (SavorTheBook) or Twitter ( @SAVOR_the_book ).

I hope you'll check them out.  It's great stuff!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hi-Tech Helping Hand For Japan

I've been following the mind-boggling tragic string of events unfolding in Japan with great sadness, and yet have been very impressed by the people of Japan and how well they are handling these various challenges.

I posted a link to the Google page that has a lot of humanitarian helpful links and information resources a few days ago.  I've been amazed by the people wanting to help, and disappointed by the seemingly equal number of people wanting to capitalize on the suffering in Japan.

One thing I keep seeing is a lot of people who WANT to help, but are (rightfully) very afraid that their money isn't going to a good cause.  There are PLENTY of scams out there, so DO be very careful.  One of the best things I have seen is through iTunes.  If you are an iTunes user, you can donate through their web site using your iTunes account.  100% of the funds go to the Red Cross to help out in Japan, and you are anonymous through iTunes while donating through an account you already have set up most likely.  It doesn't get much easier!

I gave this way, and I recommend it for any iTunes user.  You can give as little as $5, and every bit helps!

Here's the link if you would like to check it out. 

A Lotus for Japan,

Friday, March 11, 2011

Help With The Crisis In Japan

Today is a gorgeous spring day in the southern United States.  Reports coming out of Japan say it was there today as well, until the Tsunami hit.

Watching the footage today of the carnage in the wake of the Tsunami and Quake, I have found it very difficult to write my thoughts down.  I decided to simply post the notes I jotted down as I watched it unfold.  It's just words and phrases, but it's straight from the heart. 

What the...
Oh my god...
drive, drive, drive!
I can't believe that's real!
Is that real??
That house is on fire AND is riding the wave!!
I've never seen anything like this...jeez...
those poor people...
How many...
shrines, businesses, temples, farms, food, cars, boats.....lives.
hurts to look at...
repulsed, captivated, amazed, overwhelmed, saddening...
Maybe the world will calm down and focus on suffering.
Need to do something.

I'm still completely overwhelmed by this as I post this, so don't really know what to say, or do really.  I did want to make sure I posted the link to the site Google has set up for resources related to the tsunami.  Hope you'll all go there and see if there is anything you can do to help.


Thoughts with Japan,

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Dharma Punx by Noah Levine

A big part of the Buddhist practice is experience.  This could also be put as "Question Authority".  If you're a Buddhist to whom a big part of the appeal of Buddhism is this very aspect, then there's a good chance you like Punk Rock, or at least appreciate the Punk Rock ethic.  And if you're all of those things, then there's a really strong chance you've already heard of the Punk turned Buddhist teacher Noah Levine.
Dharma Punx

Contemplating suicide by the age of 5, smoking pot by the age of six and regularly in trouble with the law not long after.  He grew up bouncing between splintered halves of his broken home.  His Dad in Santa Fe, NM and his Mom's in Los Angeles, CA.  He had an angst about him from an early age and used drugs and alcohol to try and find happiness, or at least escape.  When he got a little older, he discovered Punk Rock and felt, for the first time, that he had found the answer to his life long unhappiness with the status quo. 

After spending years bouncing around, doing drugs, living on and off the streets, and popping in and out of jail, Levine eventually hit bottom.  He woke up in a padded cell, to the full realization that he was out of chances.  This time, he was headed straight for prison.  He spoke to his dad on the phone, who gave him some mindful meditation instructions to hopefully help him calm down.  It worked.  And BOY did it work!

Noah had heard this stuff from his Dad his whole life.  His Dad was a tree-hugging hippie, to Noah's mind.  Turns out his Dad actually knew a thing or two.  Noah's Dad was Stephen LevineStephen is very well known in his own right as the author of "A Year To Live" and many other books.  He's also a poet and teacher who was part of a group of like minded individuals who helped introduce Theravada Buddhism to the Western world.  You usually see his name along-side Sharon Salzburg and Ram Dass (one of Stephen Levines close friends).

Noah had always dismissed, and distrusted, his Dad's hippie advice.  On that day when he was facing a prison sentence, he finally listened.  He followed his Dad's advice and did a very brief mindful meditation exercise and found that it actually helped.  He did some more.  I'll leave it to you to find out the rest from his memoir, Dharma Punx, but I can tell you it has a happy ending.  At least for him.  Many of his old friends weren't so lucky, but Noah has survived, and even thrived, on the path of Buddhism that he discovered. 

He's now clean and sober and is doing everything in his power to spread the teachings that saved his life to others who need it most.  Actually, he's trying to spark a revolution.  A spiritual revolution.  A mindful revolution.

Noah Levine, with his book Dharma Punx, has taken the first steps down his path.  His path seems to be to help others find the peace and revolution that he has found, and his second book "Against the Stream" (Which I am also currently reading, and will review soon) as well as his web site and related DPunx Nation Meditation Groups around the country is how he's doing it.

I invite you to read this book and see if you find encouragement, interest or even just entertainment there.  I found them all, and I think just about anyone can find at least one of those things to love about this book.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Perception? Judgement? That's a load of rubbish!

We've all probably heard some variation of the story of the "snake on the road" wherein the man leaves his house at night and sees a snake in the road.  He runs back inside and does not leave his house because he's scared of the snake.  The next morning when he comes out, cautiously, he finds that the snake was really just a piece of rope. 

This one comes up often in various Buddhist books, and is used to great effect when talking about fear, illusion, perception and such. The story stuck with me from the first time I read it because it really is such a great example of two things that I try to keep in mind always: 

~ Perception is nine tenths of the flaw
~ Most people judge you based on their perception of you.

Having been one of the "long hair freaky people" most of my life, I'm accustomed to being judged on my appearance.  It doesn't happen nearly as often as it did many years ago when I wore my leather jacket and my hair flew free and crazy looking, but it still happens regularly.  I've never liked it, but I've grown to understand it and even have compassion for those who do it.  Because I'm as guilty as the next guy of this I have, as I mentioned above, always tried hard not to do the same to others.  Being human, I often fail.

Recently, while out of the country on business, I had a real life example of this story happen to me.  It was a great reminder, as well as a great opportunity, for me to utilize the lesson that this story had to teach.

I had been in Bermuda for a few days, and had seen and encountered a few homeless guys who by most anyones standards would seem a little scary.  These guys were the kind that even a big and tall scary looking guy like myself would cross the street to avoid.  Most of them sported waist length dreadlocks (or just plain matted) hair, which in itself could scare average folks.  And I say that as a guy who knows…I've got 3 foot long hair myself, and I've unintentionally frightened more than my share of people based simply on my appearance.

Anyhow, I was walking down the sidewalk, late at night and in the "rough" part of town (Bermuda's rough part of town is nicer than most American neighborhoods).  I saw, a couple of blocks ahead of me on the sidewalk, what appeared to be a large homeless man sitting on the sidewalk slumped over against a trash can.  When I passed by earlier, he was sleeping in the doorway near there.  Having seen the guy before, and seeing this ominous shape now in the same area, I fairly safely surmised that this was the same guy and I mentally prepped myself for the inevitable encounter.

Now, in the past, my typical way of dealing with beggars is to ask them if I can have a dollar before they get the chance to ask me.  This usually throws them off so much that they never get the chance to ask me.  This works extraordinarily well.  In recent days, I've been struggling with how I should deal with this in light of my recent path.  This is a LONG involved topic for another post.  So, for now, suffice it to say that I prepped myself for the encounter and kept walking toward him.

As I got closer, and was reviewing what I would say in my head, my newfound-mindful-Buddhish-metta nature started kicking in, and I started reviewing alternate ways of more skillfully dealing with him.

When I finally got close enough to make him out, I saw that "he" wasn't a "he" at all.  "He" was a load of rubbish.  An amalgam of garbage bags, debris and trash that had been thrown out on the curb by the trash can.  The fact that this wasn't even a person and that I had fallen for the self-imposed "Snake in the road" mental illusion aside, there's the additional irony here of the symbolism.  It did not escape me that I not only saw a piece of rope in the road and mistook it for a snake, but it REALLY hit home to me that I mistook a giant pile of trash for a homeless HUMAN.  What does THAT say about my unskillful perception and judgmental mindset??

Anyhow, the whole deal made me very keenly aware of my own shortcomings and illustrated how much of my path lies ahead of me, and how little falls behind me.

A couple of blocks later, I did encounter the very man I thought I was seeing.  He did hit me up for money, and I did not give him any (but because I sincerely didn't have any at the moment).  What I DID do, however, was take the time to stop and talk to him like a human being and apologize with great sincerity (whether he knew that or not) that I wasn't able to help him.

So the moral of the story is two-fold.  First, don't assume that your perception is reality.  It very often is not.  Second, when you do perceive something, take the time to consider your reactions to that thing.  You may not be able to prevent (at least at first) your lifelong habit of drawing conclusions based on your visual input, but take a few seconds to consider your reactions and ask yourself if they are founded on reality or perception.  It's normal human nature to jump to these conclusions, but it's not always reality!

Hopefully, I will do better next time!



Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"I Love You, I Love You!"

My first morning in Bermuda, last week, I woke up and set off for my three miles of mindful walking in paradise.  I fully expected to have one of the best mindful walks a person could possibly hope for, and I got just that.

I walked along famous Front Street, breathing in and breathing out paradise. 

Breathing in, I am grateful to be on this island paradise.
Breathing out, I am awake and aware in this beautiful place.

I took in the incredible views of the harbor, the sun rising over the east side of it.  The beautiful Front Street stores.  The people all saying "Good Morning" as is their custom for all.  It was exactly what I expected and it was wonderful.

Just as I neared the 1.5 mile point, where I would turn around and head back, at Crows Lane Roundabout I saw a statue of a bearded man stepping forward and waving with both hands.  I snapped a picture and figured I would check it out later. 

A little further along, right where I turned around to head back, I saw a man who looked exactly like the statue leaned forward in the roundabout waving with both hands to all the people coming in to Hamilton for work. This spot is where all the traffic pours in to the city in the morning. 

The man, whom I later learned was Johnny Barnes, was waving at all the drivers and saying "I Love you, We Love you!".  He spotted me, and shouted across to me "Hey buddy, don't forget we Love you, we Love you!  Have a great day!"

I was so stunned, taken aback and positively filled with happiness from this guy who simply radiated happiness and joy, I waved back and told him I loved him too.  I walked back to my hotel and went about my day and I'm telling you that my day was ten times brighter because of this stranger who so sincerely told me he loved me.  Not because he loved me, although that was sweet, but that this guy was such a shining example of happiness. 

I did a little research, and it seems Johnny Barnes is a local legend.  He's Bermuda's very own Good-Will Ambassador and he's darned good at it!  Seems that he was an electrician until about 1948, then a bus driver.  Then, according to legend, on his way to work one day he just stopped and "took up waving at people". 

He can now be found pretty much every morning, there, from 5am to 10am making people smile.  Some people assume he's a crazy man, but he's not.  He's a happily married man, allegedly, who by all accounts is just HAPPY! 

How cool is that?

The world needs more Johnny Barnes.  Every City and town could benefit from a good will ambassador like Mr. Barnes.  I hope he lives many years to come and keeps doing what he's doing.  He certainly warmed my heart on a day I didn't think it could be any happier than it already was!