An Unusual Lesson from Monks

March 17, 2024 by  
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As you know, I love to travel. There are so many awe-inspiring, extraordinarily beautiful, and even startling sights all over this big world of ours. But I have to say, I am inspired by the people maybe more than the places I see. The way that other people live and the way they think can be so different in some ways and so alike in others that I often find myself comparing what I do and what I think with the ways and thoughts of the people I meet.

Some years back, I saw what I thought of as one of the oddest things. It was something I never thought I’d see, and it really struck me because it was incongruous to the ideas I had previously. I saw these Buddhist monks walking around their temple areas, looking down as they went, at something we are all very familiar with yet would not expect to see at a Buddhist temple–cell phones! Yes, these monks—anywhere from 8 years old to 80 or 90 years old—were walking and texting or talking on that very, modern invention.

It didn’t seem to fit at all, and it took a while to get used to seeing the simple Buddhist ways combined with modern technology. I thought that Buddhists traditionally renounced conventional living. But it occurred to me after a while, that they also attach great importance to community and isn’t keeping in touch part of that? And so, if cell phones help them build and strengthen community, then maybe that technology is a good and necessary thing.

And then there’s the Buddhist philosophy that change is inevitable. Here is a quote from Lao Tzu that really explains this: Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.

We all know that technology is all about change. I remember thinking about that a lot after that one particular trip to Asia when I noticed the monks on their cell phones. I still think about it sometimes, especially about how it must have taken the monks some work to get used to the idea of using cell phones.

Embracing change is really a very important idea, one that we should all make a part of our lives. Whether it’s a simple thing like not getting upset at standing in line, being in a huge traffic jam, dealing with the heart-breaking circumstance of illness or death of a loved one, or struggling with pain and health issues ourselves, we need to focus on accepting that these things happen. Sure, if there’s something in our lives we don’t like, we can certainly work towards making things more to our liking, but some change is inevitable and other changes are just things we can’t do anything about. When we have those kinds of changes in our lives, we need to work on making peace with them. Fighting changes by getting angry or depressed, or by acting in a destructive or non-constructive way will not make things better and often leads to more unhappiness.

I know it’s easy to say that we should accept change and let it go or embrace it, but it is so much harder to act on that idea than just saying the words. Now, I’m not saying that you should give up easily when you want things to be different, like when change makes things difficult or frustrating for you. We should all do what we can to make our lives, and our family’s and friends’ lives, better. But when it comes to the point where we realize nothing can be done, or to fight it will make things worse, we would be much better off letting it go and working with the change and not against it.

I think that’s what the monks did. All the ways we communicate with each other has pretty much moved into all this mobile technology and, I guess, the monks realized that if they were going to stay connected and build a community, they needed to accept the changes in the world and not fight against them.

I think there are things in all of our lives that we fight against without success or any real progress that we can accept without a major loss of quality in our lives. I guess the hard part is figuring out which things to keep fighting for and which things to accept as well as when to give in and accept them.

So, if there’s something you have been fighting against for a long time and nothing’s really getting better, maybe only getting more frustrating for you, it’s possible that it’s time to accept it and replace your frustration with calm acceptance and, yes, even happiness. Because once we stop stressing out over the things we can’t change, we have more room to be happy. So, let’s all try to make more room for happiness.

Making 2012 Your Year of Change

January 6, 2012 by  
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2011 is being called the Year of the Protestor. From the uprising in Tunisia in January that ignited the courage of others in nearby countries for months afterwards to the Moscow rallies in the last weeks of the year, the common people rose up to protest injustice and oppression and forced people to hear them and to change. It was inspiring to see what people could accomplish when they stood up and rallied against the powers that be but it was also sad to hear of the violence and pain that had to be endured to enact the changes the protestors were after. But change did come in many countries simply because so many people persisted even when it was terribly difficult and even when it was life threatening. They were unshakably dedicated to their purpose and that made all the difference.

I wish the protests did not have to include the violence and pain and I hope that things will soon settle down with peace and freedom for these people that have suffered for so long. But pain or discomfort or just frustrating moments usually accompany change and is the reason why people commonly shy from fighting for it.

We are very lucky here that what we have to fight for are not basic freedoms or a life without constant fear of pain or death. We have our hard times, but the choices we have are, for the most part, within our grasp and what we have to work through is not so hard compared with what people in so many countries we watched this past year went through.

How about making 2012 a year of real change here, in our own lives? Let’s choose to take on the challenges that will make a better life for ourselves, our family, our friends and everyone we work with. All we need to do is keep focused on our goals, those end results, that will make our lives so much richer. And if it gets tough, just think of those people who rose up against their oppressive governments and what must have stuck in their mind to keep them so determined. You can be so determined too. Just keep your eye on the prize and keep in mind what the change will mean for your life.

Good times, Good Friends, & Getting Away From it All

August 26, 2011 by  
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So this week we’ve been out on the road and at the annual Stein Eriksen Tennis Tourney in Montana. It’s so much fun and there are so many great people there. Getting to this event every year is kind of a goal of mine. It’s not a goal like getting in shape or increasing my wealth or anything serious like that. It’s just a great time. And that, too, is important–getting out and having a good time on a regular basis.

I know we can get very wound up in our work, our big goals for our future and our family, even the little day to day things. But in addition to the serious goals and daily responsibilities, you should make it a point to get out and enjoy yourself. That is also a goal, one that is good for your health as well as your spirit. Those fun times make getting back and getting down to business much easier. If you keep running full steam ahead on all the work you have to do, you’ll burn out, or do your work poorly, or get frustrated and give up. Good times, good friends, and just getting away can do wonders for your motivation, energy level, and overall attitude.

Gratefulness Takes Action

May 27, 2011 by  
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OK here is the $64,000 dollar question. What should you and I choose to do? Be mindful of what we have and be grateful most of the time, reaping the benefits from that attitude along the way or whine and complain and be ungrateful and end up unhappy and miserable?

Ok, I know that’s not to tough a question but isn’t it funny that regardless of the answer, we so often fall into an ungrateful mode in our daily life? So what do we do about that?

Well, maybe we just need to practice it more often, be mindful of our attitude and stop the complaining when we realize what we are doing. Let’s just go out and do it, maybe 3 or 4 times a day, and see the difference it makes in our lives and the people around us. But we just can’t think about it. We need to take action, make it important in our lives. Start now. Write or call someone or post to your favorite social network site–just put something out there, saying that you are grateful and want never to forget it. And start reaping the benefits.

Change Your Scenery

April 8, 2011 by  
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It’s good to be back in the shadow of the Rockies. After being in Hawaii these last few months I can really appreciate the beautiful Utah landscape, arid and harsh as it appears sometimes. Hawaii is lush and breathtaking but Utah, has amazing color and spectacular formations. I’m always happy to get to either home after time in the previous.

In the same way, you don’t have to be stuck with just one goal, one hobby, or one set of tasks all the time. Being able to move between two items will give you a continued appreciation of both. So if you find yourself getting burned out on a particularly trying set of tasks, move to something else, something completely different if possible.

For instance, if you are starting a business and have been working on marketing plans for weeks, switch gears and work on development for a while. The change in “scenery” can give you’re a boost of inspiration and recharge your enthusiasm for the marketing that will get your newly developed products out there.

And if you’ve been holed up all winter, welcome the spring by getting out somewhere and waking up your senses. A literal change of scenery will do you good all the way around. Our minds crave novelty and novelty brings us mega satisfaction, as I am sure you have experienced many times. We just sometimes need a reminder to step out of the habitual.

Inspiration for Change from Across the Sea

April 1, 2011 by  
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Since December of last year, the Middle East has been in turmoil, unrest growing from grumbling to full scale rebellion all across the region. Protesters of these countries commonly cite the inspiring events that occurred in the small Mediterranean country of Tunisia whose citizens were the first to drive actual and dramatic governmental change in the region through demonstrations and protests.

I have to say it’s been impressive, as well as painful, to watch. But this is what change is. It causes pain as well as elation. It topples the familiar and even comfortable status quo while presenting all the wonderful possibilities it brings. It wrecks some, if not all of what was built previously to clear ground to build up for new lives, practices, and dreams.

I know the trials these people are going through in the Middle East make many of our struggles seem insignificant. But they are OUR struggles and if the people in Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Libya, and the many other countries all over the world fighting against oppression and corruption can bravely move forward with their momentous tasks, we really should be able to pull together enough courage to move forward with the goals we’ve set for ourselves. Tunisia’s circumstance may not relate to our own exactly, but their passion and determination can be an inspiration to enact the change we know we need in our own lives.