Posted by: Upāsaka | 06/09/2018

Financial Fasting

  • Rule 1: For the course of the year, until the first day of Ramadhan 2019, I may buy only groceries and household necessities such as toilet paper, paper towels, soap, cleaning products. No purchasing gadgets or items intended to make our lives somehow “easier”. Any necessities that I must purchase will be bought in person, not online.
  • Rule 2: No purchases for myself of any kind. If my phone breaks I may have it repaired. Same for computer. If my skateboards break I may use the extended warranty but no new purchases. New clothes cannot be purchased; instead, I will need to go to a thrift store. No purchases include digital media, books, music, etc.
  • Rule 3: No eating out or buying drinks or coffee unless it is with my family at their request.
  • Rule 4: I may purchase items for others as dana and out of necessity. There are no restrictions on where or how I practice charity or the purchase of goods for giving.

I’ll edit and add to this list as I go along and I’ll be sure to document any deviations here. I hope to break the curse of conspicuous consumption and gain some sanity.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 06/23/2018

Media Fast Rules

  1. I will not logon to Facebook for personal use. I will not reactivate my personal Facebook account for a minimum of one year from today (until June 23rd, 2019).
  2. I will not seek out news either online or via radio or television.
  3. I will only seek information about candidates for office in the three days preceding elections.
  4. I will not seek out nor engage in discussion about politics, presidents, kings, ministers of state;
  5. I will not seek out news about armies, alarms, and battles;
  6. I will abstain from media whose subject is food and drink; clothing, furniture, garlands, and scents;
  7. I will abstain from vehicles; villages, towns, cities, the countryside; women and heroes; the gossip of the street and celebrities.

My bhikkhu friend Ajahn Piyadhammo has suggested I make some hard and fast rules to make my purpose more clear and increase my chances of success. So, the above is a start. Wish me luck!

Posted by: Upāsaka | 06/22/2018

Facebook Fast

As part of my ongoing attempt to cut out media and entanglements that are not conducive to the development of mindfulness and concentration I have deactivated my Facebook account. I found that any good I may have been able to do in terms of offering support and standing in solidarity with the oppressed and victimized was outweighed by the agitation it caused in my heart.

It has been more difficult than I expected to separate myself from it and I found that I often became embroiled in debate with people that proved utterly fruitless. I’ve discovered it is next to impossible to educate compassion on Facebook so fighting with those who are lacking only disturbed my own peace.

I hope that by giving up the news and Facebook I’ll be able to cultivate more peace and less anxiety. In addition, I hope to become less opinionated and combative. We shall see.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 06/19/2018

Thana Sutta

[3] “‘It’s through adversity that a person’s endurance may be known, and then only after a long period, not a short period; by one who is attentive, not by one who is inattentive; by one who is discerning, not by one who is not discerning’: Thus was it said. And in reference to what was it said?

“There is the case where a person, suffering loss of relatives, loss of wealth, or loss through disease, does not reflect: ‘That’s how it is when living together in the world. That’s how it is when gaining a personal identity.[1] When there is living in the world, when there is the gaining of a personal identity, these eight worldly conditions spin after the world, and the world spins after these eight worldly conditions: gain, loss, status, disgrace, censure, praise, pleasure, & pain.’ Suffering loss of relatives, loss of wealth, or loss through disease, he sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. And then there is the case where a person, suffering loss of relatives, loss of wealth, or loss through disease, reflects: ‘That’s how it is when living together in the world. That’s how it is when gaining a personal identity. When there is living in the world, when there is the gaining of a personal identity, these eight worldly conditions spin after the world, and the world spins after these eight worldly conditions: gain, loss, status, disgrace, censure, praise, pleasure, & pain.’ Suffering loss of relatives, loss of wealth, or loss through disease, he does not sorrow, grieve, or lament, does not beat his breast or become distraught.

“‘It’s through adversity that a person’s endurance may be known, and then only after a long period, not a short period; by one who is attentive, not by one who is inattentive; by one who is discerning, not by one who is not discerning’: Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.192.than.html

How quickly do I forget that samsara is completely out of control and offers no refuge anywhere. May I recall that samsara is forever incorregible and strive for a toehold in liberation.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 06/15/2018

Eid Mubarak and Equanimity

It so happens that today is Eid al Fitr and I’m on my way to spend it with the in-laws. Of course, as with most familial situations, there is a certain level of stress and discord involved. Not to be melodramatic but I can at least be thankful that blame for wrongdoing has no shifted to me rather than my spouse for an incident that almost resulted in an Eid al Fitr boycott.

It seems that there is always a need in families and groups to have a sacrificial lamb or scape goat in order to reinforce in-group bonds. Hopefully, my wife can benefit and her relationship with her parents will be somewhat healed.

Thanks to my practice, rather than stewing over the supposed injustice, the first thought that occurred to me was that this is the perfect occasion to practice equanimity. When praised or blamed, what could be a better response than upekkha? Knowing that the world and people are inconstant and stressful and that we and everyone else are heirs to our kamma it seems to me that there is no better reaction than to cultivate even mindedness. To wit:

What, now, is the nature of that insight? It is the clear understanding of how all these vicissitudes of life originate, and of our own true nature. We have to understand that the various experiences we undergo result from our kamma — our actions in thought, word and deed — performed in this life and in earlier lives. Kamma is the womb from which we spring (kamma-yoni), and whether we like it or not, we are the inalienable “owners” of our deeds (kamma-ssaka). But as soon as we have performed any action, our control over it is lost: it forever remains with us and inevitably returns to us as our due heritage (kamma-dayada). Nothing that happens to us comes from an “outer” hostile world foreign to ourselves; everything is the outcome of our own mind and deeds. Because this knowledge frees us from fear, it is the first basis of equanimity. When, in everything that befalls us we only meet ourselves, why should we fear?

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/wheel006.html

Posted by: Upāsaka | 06/14/2018

Short Term Suffering

Yesterday I had the opportunity to sacrifice my own comfort and go against the grain of my own desires to give something to a person who has been consistently hurtful of late. In any normal calculus, this person was not deserving of my generosity and I had to stake with that briefly before I was able to overcome that and realize that it was about developing the skills of letting go, of kindness and compassion.

I won’t dissemble however: in the short term or can be painful to feel taken advantage of, unappreciated and belittled. But, how else would we develop the paramis? What’s more, there is something invigorating and refreshing in confounding any attempt to make you react poorly and in surprising the receiver of your gift.

As Lord Buddha said, if one must endure short term hardship for long term gain then it should be done. All of which makes the teaching of New Age gurus and life coaches highly suspect. I have felt uncomfortable with teachers like Betinho Massaro for some time but couldn’t put my finger on it. It now seems to me that it had to do with the way they eschew the hard and sometimes painful work of purification and cultivation not to mention their specious metaphysical reasoning.

In short, if it sounds too good to be true it almost certainly is.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 06/13/2018

Uposatha Reflection: Idle Chatter

Part of samma vaca is to refrain from idle chatter and meaningless speech, things which I have failed to do in a quite spectacular way. Swept up by a morbid fascination and incredulity at the cruelty and stupidity of our political system in the US, I have spent a lot of time decrying certain politicians and their pet policies. But, what does the Lord Buddha have to say about such subjects of conversation? For this Uposatha and beyond I hope to devote my speech only to the ten suitable topics for conversation as listed in the excerpt below and to refrain from ignoble speech.

§ 1. I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying in Savatthi at Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s monastery. Now at that time a large number of monks, after the meal, on returning from their alms round, had gathered at the meeting hall and were engaged in many kinds of bestial topics of conversation: conversation about kings, robbers, & ministers of state; armies, alarms, & battles; food & drink; clothing, furniture, garlands, & scents; relatives; vehicles; villages, towns, cities, the countryside; women & heroes; the gossip of the street & the well; tales of the dead; tales of diversity, the creation of the world & of the sea; talk of whether things exist or not.

Then the Blessed One, emerging from his seclusion in the late afternoon, went to the meeting hall and, on arrival, sat down on a seat made ready. As he was sitting there, he addressed the monks: “For what topic of conversation are you gathered together here? In the midst of what topic of conversation have you been interrupted?”

“Just now, lord, after the meal, on returning from our alms round, we gathered at the meeting hall and got engaged in many kinds of bestial topics of conversation: conversation about kings, robbers, & ministers of state; armies, alarms, & battles; food & drink; clothing, furniture, garlands, & scents; relatives; vehicles; villages, towns, cities, the countryside; women & heroes; the gossip of the street & the well; tales of the dead; tales of diversity, the creation of the world & of the sea; talk of whether things exist or not.”

“It isn’t right, monks, that sons of good families, on having gone forth out of faith from home to the homeless life, should get engaged in such topics of conversation, i.e., conversation about kings, robbers, & ministers of state… talk of whether things exist or not.

“There are these ten topics of [proper] conversation. Which ten? Talk on modesty, contentment, seclusion, non-entanglement, arousing persistence, virtue, concentration, discernment, release, and the knowledge & vision of release. These are the ten topics of conversation. If you were to engage repeatedly in these ten topics of conversation, you would outshine even the sun & moon, so mighty, so powerful — to say nothing of the wanderers of other sects.”

— AN 10.69

Posted by: Upāsaka | 06/12/2018

A Mistake

Last night, for a moment, I lost control. It had been a long da o fasting and the kids were off of school but all of their extra-curricular activities were still on. So we were gong non-stop until 8:30PM. When we got home it was almost 9 and I had yet to break fast. My daughter was having a melt down, the baby had a fever and my son was in the bathroom forever. So, I broke fast alone.

Within a few minutes my wife comes upstairs berating me for treating my daughter badly, for being so selfish as to eat alone and any other grievances she may have had. I lost it. I threw my plate of rice into the sink where it broke and retreated to another room with her screaming at me to get out. That I was a monster. That I am a horrible human being.

Yes, I was wrong and no, there are no buts. I allowed my mind to be swayed by criticism and blame and the result was that I broke a plate and scared my kids. My wife, as she is wont to do, is talking about divorce again. I told her that it’s fine but she will need to figure it out and I don’t intend to go anywhere. With her in school, in need of my help all day long for at least one day each week and without any means of supporting herself I told her it’s not really a viable option. When she is on her feet financially I will give her half of everything I earn and she can make a go of it alone. Or, we could just be nice and civil and realize that raising a family isn’t fun or romantic.

Unfortunately, there’s no point in trying to talk it out though. For some time, whether alone or with counselors, she has been too fixated on dwelling on my faults to take effective action to get on with it. If I’m so bad then she should leave but I suspect that financial realities will keep her tethered here for a bit longer. In the interim, I’m not going to torture myself trying to “work it out” when there is nothing to work out except for a more detailed understanding of how deeply I am held in contempt.

May I guard my mind. May I not repeat this mistake. May I do better for the sake of my children and for my wife. May I dedicate the merit of my practice to all of them and may they find true happiness.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 06/10/2018

What Do You Get?

I get the chance to cultivate deep and profound patience. You seem to become more desperate and to be dragged deeper into a swirling cauldron of anger and resentment. As awful as I feel at times being constantly berated I can at least take comfort in the fact that I am able to use the poison as an anti-venom and iniculate myself against the kilesas. But, what do you get? I am saddened when I think about the ways you are hurting yourself but there’s nothing I can do except to work on my own heart and try my best not to add fuel to this ever-raging inferno.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 06/09/2018

Fasting from Conspicuous Consumption

The Challenge
For one year, we will buy nothing.

Except for groceries … and a few other things.

***

From January 1st, 2014 to December 31st, 2014 we will adhere to the following purchasing rules:

RULE #1: We are permitted to buy:

groceries (including pet food)
toilet paper
toothpaste, floss, and toothbrushes
ingredients for making soap (Santa gave me lye in my stocking!) and other hygiene/cleaning products

RULE #2: We are NOT permitted to buy:

soaps, detergents, deodorants, hair products, cleaning products, etc.
other personal hygiene “necessities” (razors, razor blades, creams, scrubs, make-up, etc.)
elastics, tape, string, paper, tin foil, ziplocks, pencils, craft supplies, etc.
clothing attire, shoes
household items/products, decorations, furniture
appliances
toys/electronics
sporting goods
books (but borrowing from the library is great!)
tools
hair cuts/personal care
activities and programs (with the exception of Aurora’s cello lessons)
presents (but we can make them!)
RULE #3: Rule #2 may be broken if:

A family member’s physical well-being is threatened
AND:

The item is purchased used if possible
AND:

The purchased item is disclosed in this blog along with the reasons for buying it, the monetary cost of the item (to us), the social and environmental cost of producing the item, the estimated lifespan of the item, and the item’s most likely ultimate destiny (i.e. the dump, recycled into a new product, etc.)

RULE #4: The following other expenses are permissible:

essential medical, dental, and veterinary expenses
utility bills and housing
the occasional dining-out treat (disclosed in this blog)
public transportation (for work)
the occasional rental/borrowed car (and gas) for short vacations
items needed to repair something we already own to its original condition (as of January 1st, 2014) – NO upgrades! So, if our bicycle has a flat tire, we can purchase patches, or, if all else fails, a new inner tube, but no new (and lighter) handlebars, more aerodynamic helmets, etc.

https://thefastingconsumer.wordpress.com/the-challenge/

The above I found on a blog and am inspired to take up something similar. I will need to make some exceptions for dana but I am sick of buying things on a whim (despite how blessed I realize I am to be able to do so). I hope to expand on this theme and come up with something shortly.

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