Zen Blog

This blog collects various internet feeds aimed towards information, experience and technique exchange in support of our shared spiritual journey.....

”Namaste - may the light in me, honor the light in you…”

Why We Never Have Enough Time & What to Do About It

By Leo Babauta

Everyone I know has this problem: there never seems to be enough time in the day for everything we need or want to do.

We have a pile of tasks and projects to do, endless messages and emails to respond to, and even if we work with focus and no distractions (that’s a huge “if”) … there’s not enough time.

Let’s say you happen to find time after work and on weekends, to do non-work stuff, like reading and exercise and meditating and learning new things and taking up a hobby … well, then you find that the time you create for this stuff is never enough, you have too much that you want to do and there’s still not enough time.

And that’s just the big things … in addition to all of that, there’s eating and sleeping and driving and showering, there’s using the bathroom and watching TV shows and keeping up with the news, there’s cleaning and other chores, washing the car and paying bills, grocery shopping and cooking, doing your taxes and registering your car. How does all of this get shoehorned into the small amount of time that we have for work and non-work tasks and activities?

There’s never enough time, and it freaking stresses us all out.

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Buddha Buzz Weekly: Death Defying Monks

Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week. 

Deceased Buddhist Monk Will Keep Meditating as a Mummy

A revered Buddhist monk who spent nearly 45 years meditating in a cave will remain in a meditative state for, well, forever. After 94-year-old Wangdor Rinpoche died at his monastery in the Mandi district of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, his disciples—who believe that their teacher is abiding in a meditative state known as the Togden—began a process for preserving his body, according to Indian newspaper the Hindustan Times. “The master is in a high meditative stage of trance. Other teachers in the monastery will take the final decision to preserve the body, which will be mummified later,” said disciple Hara Zigar. After fleeing Tibet in 1959—the same year as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama—Wangdor Rinpoche spent most of his early life in retreat, spending almost 45 years in a cave above Rewalsar Lake in northern India. He practiced in both the Nyingma and Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Mummies aren’t a complete anomaly in Tibetan Buddhism and other Buddhist traditions (such as Shingon monks in Japan). The mummified body of the Dalai Lama’s teacher, Kyabjé Ling Rinpoche, is currently kept at His Holiness’s residence in Dharamsala. In 1975, after an earthquake struck the region, the remains of self-mummified monk Sangha Tenzin from the 15th century were found in the area of Spiti, on the Indo-Tibet border. The body of the monk showed little signs sign of deterioration—he even had teeth—despite appearing to have undergone no preservation procedure. Archaeologists believe this is the result of a Buddhist ritual of ingesting a mix of herbs, roots, sap, and poisonous nuts to deplete fat reserves and remove moisture before death.

Funeral for Hardline Sri Lanka Monk at Hindu Temple Defies Court Injunction 

A controversial Buddhist monk who recently died was cremated on the grounds of a Hindu temple in Sri Lanka in violation of a court order that prohibited the rites from being carried out on the premises. According to the Tamil Guardian, the memorial for the unidentified monk was led by extremist monastic Gnanasara, a member of the right-wing nationalist group Bodu Bala Sena, or Buddhist Power Force. The late monk had spent the decade prior to his death establishing a monastery and building a massive Buddha statue at the Hindu temple. Local worshippers had fiercely opposed his cremation, as corpses and funerals are considered contaminants and inappropriate for sacred spaces. The Buddhist group ignored these concerns and held the cremation on the banks of the temple’s sacred reservoir. Sri Lanka police disregarded the locals’ complaints and the court injunction and provided full security for the funeral while barring Tamils, a mostly Hindu ethnic group, from entering the area. One Buddhist monk reportedly assaulted a Tamil lawyer after taunting the protestors by stating that Buddhist monks held supremacy in Sri Lanka.

Dalai Lama Tweets Support for Climate Strike

As millions of people took to the streets for the global climate strike last Friday, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama voiced his support for the demonstrators. In a tweet, the Dalai Lama wrote that the young people who spearheaded the global movement were “being very realistic” about the impending changes to the world’s ecosystems and urged his followers to cheerlead the youths’ efforts. “It’s quite right that students and today’s younger generation should have serious concerns about the climate crisis and its effect on the environment,” he said. “They are being very realistic about the future. They see we need to listen to scientists. We should encourage them.” 

On September 20, tens of thousands of people across the globe protested for action on climate change ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit

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My World is in Your Blind Spot: A Review

A silence has fallen over the wave of self-immolations that engulfed Tibet over the last decade. Few raise the subject in polite circles nowadays.

For Tibetans, it is too painful to contemplate the possibility that 164 of their brethren may have died to advance a cause that appears stalled at best. For others, burning bodies in a distant land do not seem an appropriate topic of conversation at the dinner table or at a cocktail reception. The world has moved on.

But artist Tenzing Rigdol’s new exhibition, aptly titled My World is in Your Blind Spot (and currently on display at the Tibet House in New York City), breaks this collective silence about the fiery protests of a people on the edge of existence.

From Tenzing Rigdol’s series My World is in Your Blind Spot. Silk brocade and scripture, 72 X 72. | Photo courtesy of Sarah Magnatta

In a series of larger-than-life panels that overwhelm the gallery walls, Rigdol’s buddhas sit in repose, radiating the characteristic Buddhist equanimity, while their bodies are slowly consumed—or maybe miraculously unharmed, who knows?—by flames. There is no sense of pain, or alarm, in their expression, only a calm detachment that borders on indifference.

In a recent article, journalist Tracy Ross and anthropologist Carole McGranahan reflect on what happens during a protest by fire. The process is “almost incomprehensible. First, the kerosene or gas poured onto clothing enables ignition. The resulting third-degree burn—the most intense kind, producing charred or whitened skin—can be less painful than milder burns. That’s because the damage is so deep that the nerves die.”

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Seven Ways to Slow Down

When young children break down in a fit of tears, we are quick to recognize that this is a case of being overstimulated: too much noise, too many people, too much to manage. We put them down for a nap, and know things will be more calm in an hour.

Yet we often fail to recognize the same signs of stress and overwhelm in ourselves. We take on work projects, make plans with friends, push ourselves to go to the gym, keep up with the news, and tackle new recipes, then question why it is we feel so frazzled and burnt out. 

As philosopher Alain de Botton explains, sometimes we just need to keep things simple.

“What registers as anxiety is typically no freakish phenomenon; it is the mind’s logical enraged plea not to be continuously and exhaustingly overstimulated,” he says.

Here are seven ways to slow down and simplify your life: 

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Practicing Self-Compassion Can Boost Your Mental Health

Most American adults will experience stress, anxiety or depression at some point in their lives. Therapies that teach mindfulness and self-compassion may provide some relief. A new study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, looks at whether focusing on self-compassion may be as effective as a mindfulness-based therapy for improving mental health.

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) are two of the most widely used clinical approaches for treating depression, anxiety, and stress. The first, MBCT, is based on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and includes meditation, breath work, yoga, body scans, and practices to explore thoughts and increase mindfulness. On the other hand, CFT focuses on building compassion by incorporating practices for compassion and self-compassion, along with mindfulness exercises. 

Since both therapies are widely used, researchers wanted to learn whether CFT’s explicit instruction in compassion and self-compassion might yield different results for people experiencing depression, anxiety and stress compared to a mindfulness-based approach alone—although the researchers noted that nonjudgmental acceptance, which is part of the most widely-adopted definition of mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn, “can be taken as indicating that compassion toward self and others and mindfulness are intrinsically linked.”

Can You Feel Better with Compassion?

The study took place at a residential rehabilitation and health clinic in Iceland. In addition to MBCT and CFT, the clinic also offers psychoeducation, fitness and exercises classes, acupuncture, and massage.

Of the 58 participating adult residents, 20 attended an MBCT group, another 18 joined a CFT group, and another 20 received no mindfulness-based treatment. MBCT and CFT group members were offered eight two-hour-long sessions over four consecutive weeks, and had to attend at least four sessions to receive an adequate “dose” of treatment.

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