Personal Note

My most valued possession is my family. Even if you are living in a box somewhere, and you have the love and support of your family, you will always be wealthy. Love really is all you need. From love, great things will emerge. From your thoughts, you can create greatness.

This is what I need to remind myself of everyday to be the best person that I can be. Live your life with gratitude. Be thankful for all that you have everyday, even if it is your eyes to see or your ears to hear or your feet to walk or your hands to create. Understand your place in this Universe; how infinitesimally small you are, but how huge a contribution your Spirit is. Don't wear blinders to the world around you, you're not the only one here. Be kind, considerate, don't be judgemental, love others, and yourself. Know that you are perfect inside; that you are love.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sundays With Buddha


Week 14

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.




This is one of the most appealing things to me about Buddhism. I have always had a very hard time understanding how it can be felt that one section or religion of people can all be right, paving their way to “heaven”, while everyone else is wrong, and destined for ‘eternal damnation’, for not believing as they do. 
I've heard all the arguments to this already, and this week’s lesson is not about whose religion is right and whose is wrong. It is to precisely point out the appeal of the Buddha’s way. It is appealing to me because it neither denies nor insists upon a Supreme Being—I am free to decide upon that myself. It is also completely free of any negative opinions about other religions, as Buddhism is not necessarily a religion more than a path to finding inner-peace.

But this Sunday’s lesson is not about me being on a soapbox about religion. I have always steered clear of religious discussions of any kind. It's just that, in this past year, it has become abundantly clear to me that we all need to work on becoming more unified, not separated, by our differences through prejudices and misunderstanding. If we all realized that we need each other to survive, that we have more than enough love to go around, and that we can grow from each other’s encouragements, what a world we could live in. If we all started seeing the oneness in all things instead of feeling superiority or dominion over all other beings inhabiting this earth, we could actually live in harmony with all of life, while still maintaining the necessary balance of the cycle of life.

So, that being said, I’ll step of my ‘unity soapbox’ and get on with exactly what this quote says to me.
What this week’s quote is saying is for you to make up your own mind about what you read and hear. The Buddha, as you can see from the actual quote, encourages you to believe nothing, no matter who tells you to believe it, unless it resonates with you, personally. I take this to mean, of course, not solely about philosophy or religion, but all things. I imagine religion probably wasn’t even actually in the forefront of Gautama’s mind more so than philosophy or life teachings, but I am not a scholar, so please don’t quote me. I never claim to know exactly what I’m talking about, just the humble pursuit of my own understanding and the joyful sharing of what I find.

And what I have found thus far is that Buddhism encourages you to find your own path to self-discovery; to enlightenment. Not even the Buddha, himself, asks for you to look to him, just because it is him. He wants you to trust in yourself, because you have all the wisdom you need inside of you. If your wisdom tell you that Christianity is the right path, then you are right. If your wisdom tells you that Hinduism, Judaism, Agnosticism, Buddhism or even Atheism is the way…then you are right. What is good for you may not be good for another. Your own spirit will guide you, if you listen.

I always feel as though I am creating animosity by discussing passionate topics such as religion, but this is a topic that is passionate to me. Not religion, per se, but common equality and acceptance of all. I am touched the by dedication that many religious people have to their beliefs and that they believe that their way is the right way and they want to share that with others, but I see that this world is changing, whether we are ready for it or not. We seem to be moving into a more progressive ideal system where we are gaining more acceptance for other belief systems. Where some would see this as a downward spiral to damnation, I see it as a beautiful unity of all human kind. When the barriers caused by separation and judgment and feelings of superiority are broken down, what we have left are acceptance and love and feelings of oneness and unity.

How can that be wrong?
Thanks for reading today.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sundays With Buddha

Week 13

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.



This so clearly speaks for itself to me. We have all heard that to hold on to anger, a grudge, or non-forgiveness is only hurting you. While I do believe that these things will, no doubt, hurt the person to whom they are intended, the greatest suffering is to oneself.

The Buddha is correct, of course, in this week’s quote. Holding on to anger and bitterness is exactly like grasping a hot coal. We want to fling it, our anger, at our intended targets, and often do so without thinking, but we never really rid ourselves of it. We are emotionally still clutching it close to our own hearts.
Our inability to ‘let go’ causes us more pain in the long run than we often cause those we aim it at. When we hold on to our anger or feelings of being wronged, we do not move on like those we are angry about; burning ourselves. Learning to see what is most important to us in our lives is so essential to our well-being so that we can hold on to what is precious, and let go of what is hurting us.
I know of this firsthand. I have become very open about myself in my writing, and I have mentioned, more than a few times, that I used to be a very begrudging and bitter person. It took me awhile to finally break down my own walls and stop being so angry. What I remember of all the anger I kept bottled up inside is the heavy feeling of dis-ease. But was I angrier at the supposed cause of my anger, or was I really just uncomfortable and angry at myself for feeling so out of control?

As I have grown during this quest for higher spirituality, I came to realize that my discontentedness was more so towards myself, even though I tried to blame it on everyone else. I was so uncomfortable with myself and the emotions I was feeling that I literally made myself sick. Now I have learned to be with the emotions. Feel the anger, accept it, and let it go; let it pass through you like clouds pass in the sky.

It is so important to be gentle; don't be so hard on yourself. Would you say or do things to strangers or your children that you say and do to yourself? I should hope not. I try to keep that thought in mind to keep my behavior in check towards myself, as well as others. Eventually, it becomes much easier to let the anger pass. After all, it is your reaction to what is done to you that causes your pain more so than the thing, itself. When we learn this we can more easily control our reactions to events and begin the process of releasing our anger.

I still get "bent out of shape" sometimes, more often than I like, but I realize I am a human 'work-in-progress', and I am worth the effort. Part of releasing anger and judgment is releasing it in regards to yourself, as well.

Thank you for reading today. I wish you all luck on your own journeys of self-discovery, and I wish you all the wonderfulness you deserve.



Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sundays With Buddha


Week 12

Awake. Be the witness of your thoughts.


This is one of the first things I learned when I started on my journey of self-discovery and what I needed to do to become a better person. It seemed to be the main focus, or ideal, in everything that I read. Awaken the mind by bringing your awareness to the forefront of your thoughts and be the witness of those thoughts. When you witness your thoughts, you no longer allow the chatter of your mind to control you—you begin the process of control over yourself.  

Starting a new process in anything can be exciting, but overwhelming at the same time. You want so badly to have something new in your life, and sometimes you become a bit too eager to do it perfectly. Starting the process of becoming the witness of your own thoughts, your own life, should never fill you with fear and trepidation, but joy and a sense of freedom. There is no wrong way to begin, no disappointment to be had for failure of accomplishment.
I learned to start witnessing my thoughts by first taking time to notice the little things around me. I started taking a few moments during simple daily activities to quiet my mind by concentrating more on what I was doing. When I washed the dishes I would take notice of how the water felt or the soap smelled. I would close my eyes for a brief moment and listen to the birds outside or feel the breeze coming through the window. When I walked the dog I would actually look at how beautiful my neighborhood was, really see the trees and flowers; listen to the nature all around me. It was then that I could also see the difference in my thinking mind before these changes, and after.

It was a huge difference.
Soon you will be in the habit of noticing your thoughts as you are thinking them; change your thought pattern before it runs away with you. Probably, and most importantly, stop yourself from saying something hurtful (and regretful) before it mindlessly slips out. 

Sometimes our thoughts go beyond just mindless chatter or a constant to-do list. We torment ourselves with a play-by-play or ‘movie reel’ of past events that we regret or wish we could change. Then we constantly create scenarios where we re-work the situation and try to foresee a different outcome. This, of course, is torture. And it is insane.

As I talked about in week 7, it is no good to dwell on the negatives of the past, for all you do is torture yourself longing for things you cannot change. Imagine what you could accomplish of you redirected the energy you waste in fruitless and mindless thinking into productive and witnessed thoughts. You would gain more calm in your life, for one. Gaining control of your incessant thinking is one step in the direction of a new peaceful way of life.  
Awakening, to quote Eckhart Tolle in his book “A New Earth”, is, “…a shift in consciousness in which thinking and awareness separate.” (pg.259)  Though to Awaken is most often considered a spiritual occurrence that usually results in a shift of consciousness and/or personal growth, I believe anyone, in any walk of life, practicing any religion, faith or philosophy can benefit from becoming aware of their thoughts. The small changes I began with have become a way of life for me now, and, though I am still challenged every day and some days I am more forgetful than others, I am grateful of the lessons I have learned so far because each new challenge I overcome and every negative thought I am able to take notice of and change is one more day I have accomplished treating myself and others with attention and grace.

You don’t have to make a major life change or convert to any religion or philosophy. The only real philosophy here is to become a better you. I haven’t made any new commitments to anything but myself; to become a better me. I’m merely trying out a new philosophy for living.
So far, it just happens to be the best living I’ve ever done.

Good luck and Namaste (I salute you).


Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Power of Change

I've had something on my mind for awhile, now. I've been worrying that some of my friends, family and acquaintances might feel that I have changed over this last year. I worry that it may make them feel threatened or disappointed in some way. Maybe I'm being completely self-absorbed by even worrying about this, but I've been on the other end of this spectrum before. It's just that, when someone goes through things, especially major life events, it can cause in them great change. Oftentimes they may end up losing friends because those friends don't understand that they're really the same people, they just now have a different perspective on life.

Most of you know my mom was killed last year, and three months later my mother-in-law was murdered; it kind of changes a person. It definitely changes the way you perceive things. It certainly changed my outlook of this world around me; tested my faith. Forced me to have to look at things a different way. I had to really search for my Spirituality and really try to find answers to gain peace for myself.

Now, truthfully, I had already been on a sort of Spiritual Mecca, if you will, since 2008. I was beginning to change my ways, search for ways to bring Peace and calm into my life. I just could not give up my old personality fully and make that change completely public for fear that all my friends would think "Oh, great...Nanette "found God." That's not necessarily it at all, but I didn't know how to make the transition public. I've seen or heard of friends on Facebook, for instance, that I haven't heard from in a while changing drastically; religiously. I didn't want to be looked at or talked about like they were being talked about, with raised eyebrows and smirks, even though I knew it wasn't right to treat anyone that way.

Then, my whole world was literally dumped on it's head. My fear was gone. I realized that life was too short to forego living my authentic life to please others. I actually had a beautiful, spiritual episode one day after my mother's death and I immediately blogged about it. I started writing as much as I could, because it is my dream to help other people who may be going through the same difficulties I have, not just with the death of a loved one, but everything I have gone through in my life that they may be experiencing, and help them to understand that they are most definitely NOT alone. That the seemed unaccomplishable is, indeed, able to be accomplished. I relay what I've learned, tested and proven to be true in my life to you to show that there is hope to ending the frustrations you may have in your life.

This is not proselytizing. This is not religion. But, I can see where it would be considered this and equally annoying; like I said, I've been on the other end of this many times before. If you have ever browsed through my blog, you may have even seen a few posts about my views on religion. I don't follow it. I'm not opposed to it, though I used to be. I used to have very angry feelings towards the unjust actions of many religious groups. But I've grown since then. I no longer find myself blaming the whole for one section's wrongdoing. I don't want to blame anybody. When wrongful things happen, it makes me sad, but I no longer lay prejudice on the whole.

So, what's with all the Buddhism, writing for  and "Sundays With Buddha" stuff? Well, I'm interested in the introspection and peace that comes from it. Buddhism is not technically considered a religion, more so than a way of life. I'm not fully there, yet. I'm testing it out; learning about it. That's what life is, isn't it? One big learning process? I'm certainly not trying to convert anyone. The lessons I've learned can be gained from any religion or positive path you choose. And I'm not anti-Christian, and I've been very open to how I feel about religion in this blog.

So, yeah, I've changed. But I'm still the same. I just try to do things with a little more peace and grace, and I'm still working on that, and will continue to do so. It's something that I have to work on each day, which is why I write this blog, and the precise reason for the weekly blog series "Sundays With Buddha".

My change doesn't mean that you can't still talk to me the same way, and it doesn't mean that you can't still act the same way around me. I certainly don't ever want anyone to feel that they have to walk on egg shells around me. I'm not going to be offended by anyone, and hope to never offend in return. The one good thing about what has happened in my life, that is in regards to the change that has gone on in me, is that there is no judgment for anyone. You are all on your own journey, just like I am. It's not my business to change you or to judge you for the journey that you're on.

I just wanted you all to know that.

Thanks for listening, my friends...


Sundays With Buddha

Week 11

Overcome the angry by non-anger; overcome the wicked by goodness; overcome the miser by generosity; overcome the liar by truth.

Are the angry, the wicked, the miser and the liar those that you meet on your outward journey, or are they found when you contemplate yourself on your inward journey?

I suppose it works for both. As I’ve learned in my personal experiences, though, you cannot single out the angry or the wicked or the miserly or the liars unless you first tame those beasts in yourself. This is not to suggest that you single out or pass judgment on anyone when you do come to terms with those attributes in you, but we often do recognize and dislike in another what we recognize and dislike about ourselves.

 Starting a process of change and healing in our own lives creates tolerance and acceptance when we do recognize these attributes in another. And if we practice non-anger with ourselves when we feel the grip of anger; goodness when we feel the bitter taste of wickedness; generosity when we feel the selfish tug of greed; or shine the light of truth into the darkness of falsehood, we can offer these more positive solutions with our own actions. This does not mean to point out the “negative” actions of others. It just means that, with focused attention on yourself, you will start to become your best you—and can live and lead by example.

All things come with practice and diligence and you can overcome any habitual traits you may have accumulated over the years, such as those stated in this quote, just as easily as any other good habit you have found it necessary to form. I’m sure you have heard the saying, “It only takes 21 days to form a new habit.” Well, it can work in reverse, too. If you really want it, and it’s worth it to you, it can be done. All it really takes is the first step. For me, it was learning to pay attention. I started to pay attention to my thoughts and feelings and looked at why I was feeling the way I was, whenever I could. Eventually, this became a habit for me to do without ever really thinking about it.
Some things really do seem easier said than done, like paying attention all of the time to every little thought that you think or every little feeling that you feel. But it’s really not about policing all your thoughts and feelings. That’s where being gentle with yourself comes in; you do it when you can and let the rest go. It is impossible to keep track of every bit of chatter that occupies your mind. That’s why paying attention to your feelings is so important. When you catch yourself feeling something, it can remind you to become aware of your thoughts. Thoughts create emotions; emotions are feelings; feelings are usually easier to spot than thoughts, alone.

Speaking of things being easier said than done, this quote may seem to you to simplify the very strong and possibly worst attributes a person can have.  “Overcome the anger by non-anger; overcome the wicked by goodness; overcome the miser by generosity; overcome the liar by truth.”

Simple. Right. That’s easy for the Buddha to say, he was a Buddha!
I certainly don’t think he meant for you to feel like you’ve been left out of some sort of spiritual “loop”, or that you are “missing” something. Don’t make it harder than it is.  We all know little things add up. Becoming the person I am, and still developing into, has taken time. It’s a lifelong process. We all have a habit of wanting everything right now. But, there is no rush to building your story. You will accomplish what you’re supposed to, when you’re supposed to.

Here are my suggestions to working on incorporating this quote into your life:

“Overcome the angry by non-anger” As often as you can, try to pay attention every time you become angry. You don’t have to do anything else, right now, just notice the anger. The next step would be to decide if your anger is justified, and then worth it. The more often you do this, the more second-nature it will become, and it will be easier to let go and practice the “non-anger” that will overcome.

“Overcome the wicked by goodness” This may seem to you to be easier than the last task; after all, no one really wants to be wicked, right? Wickedness comes in many different forms. You don’t have to do the obvious things you would expect to be considered wicked, but, we often do things out of habit and don’t even realize we are doing something harmful. Sometimes the little things that add up are even bigger than one single event. Have you ever edged up in traffic to avoid letting that one car in who thought they would be smarter than everyone else and pass you all to the very last minute, just so you could ‘teach them a lesson’? I certainly have. These are the types of behaviors that are so sneaky, you don’t notice them forming into habits. Try, even if just for one day, or even just once in one day, to consciously change something you do like this and you will be overcoming wickedness with good. You will feel better about yourself.

“Overcome the miser by generosity” Oh, this is an easy one. Give more to charity, right? Not necessarily. It is very liberating to give whatever you can to causes that you are passionate about, whether it is your church, women’s shelters or the Humane Society, but we don’t all have a ton of money to give away. There are many connotations to being a miser, not all of which pertain to the hoarding of money. You can also be a miser with your time, kindness and love. Practice being a little more generous with whatever you can, and you will definitely be on your way to forming some fantastic ‘feel-good’ habits. (Need a quick and easy 10 step guide to becoming more generous? I found a great blog post with very thoughtful comments here.)

“Overcome the liar by truth” This one really is what it means. We all have moments in our lives when a ‘little white lie’ is necessary. But too much of something always proves to be not so good. Making a habit of lying, no matter how small the lie, will eventually creep up on you, forming a habit that can’t possibly be good. The idea behind forming habits (good ones) is to have them become second nature; automatic. The same can be said for bad habits, as well. Do you really want your second nature habit to be lying? I don’t think anyone’s idea of living includes always checking themselves to make sure their stories are adding up. This, for me, also includes living your own truth by being your authentic self. Finding what you are passionate about and not being afraid to live from your heart.

Making a promise to yourself to try at least some of the methods found in this week’s quote is the first step in your commitment to yourself to building new positive habits in your life. There’s no right or wrong way to start. Just be aware of your thoughts and feeling as often as you can. In your quest to "treat another as you would want to be treated” don’t forget to treat yourself as you should someone else; with pleasantness, goodness, generosity and truth.

Until next time…