Monday, 24 April 2017

my Buddhist blog number 170

Hi Everybody,
apologies. There's been a bit of a gap since the last episode. I've been tied up sorting stuff out with an Italian publisher who wants to take world rights on Buddhism and the Science of Happiness and The Case for Buddhism. To say that I'm totally blown away is a total understatement. It's amazing. Truly. A big publisher doing the Buddha's work. Can't keep the smile of my face.

Anyway, we're in the middle of this chapter on Buddhism and the problem paradox, which I have to say, on re-reading is quite good!!Well...there's some good stuff in it. .
So we pick up where we left off.
' Buddhism is good at dealing with problems, since it was actually born out of the realisation that the nature of human life is always tough and challenging and frequently involves considerable suffering. So that's the starting point if you like that Buddhism asks us to recognise, in setting our levels of expectation . We should expect it to be tough and challenging. So there is absolutely nothing to be gained, it argues, from railing at problems as they continue to occur in our lives, which we often do of course. ' Why is this happeningn to me? What have I done to deserve this? Or just as often, basing our hopes for happiness on some longed-for problem- free future. The key, Nichiren tells us, in his typically direct style, the key is really just to get on with living our lives;
' Though worldly troubles may arise, never let them disturb you. No one can avoid problems...' 

No one. Moreover Buddhism constantly reminds us that in our lives, everything begins with us. That may not sound on the face of it, to be a particularly ground-breaking idea. But is is remarkable how often this apparently obvious principle is ignored. It is our life in every sense. So if there's friction or frustration or difficulty coming at us from various directions, then, Buddhism argues, the place to look for the root cause is ...guess where....within our own life. That may be difficult for us to accept , very difficult. Indeed we may have to go through a huge internal struggle to accept it, but when you think about it even for a minute or two, that is the real meaning of taking responsibility for our life isn't it?

What is it about our behaviour, our thoughts, our words and actions that is giving rise to this difficulty? What subliminal signals are we giving off that trigger this response from our environment? How do we need to change in order to resolve this difficult issue? That may initially as I've said, be a very hard lesson to swallow. sometimes we can manage it. Sometimes we can't. We're only human after all. But when we can it carries with it immeasurably huge benefits that arise in no other way. Namely if we fully recognise and accept that the cause comes from within our own life, then so too does the remedy.

It lies within our grasp.

That's it for today.
See you next time.
Best wishes,
PS The Case for Buddhism,is available on Amazon and as a download on Kindle.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

my buddhist blog number 168

Hi Everybody,
beautiful spring we're having here in UK.
Right well we've launched out into this chapter called Buddhism and the Problem Paradox, and we've talked in 167 briefly about some of the strategies we normally employ towards problems in our lives, like ignoring them for example, very common. Or dumping them into someone else's lap, which again we all do a great deal. This isn't my problem we say, its theirs!!!

And if those strategies still don't block up all the crevices in our defences then we are often complicit in creating a kind of fiction that we are quite happy to share with one another. so although problems and crises and the anxieties and the suffering they bring, continue to swallow up a considerable portion of our energies, we make it quite clear to ourselves and everyone else that they are a completely abnormal exception to the normal flows and patterns of our life. No matter how frequently they occur or how disturbing they may be in derailing our lives, we persuade ourselves time and time again that as soon as this particular setback, hiccup, crisis or disaster has passed us by, our life will revert to its normal routine, untroubled state. Why? because the life state we've convinced ourselves we need to be happy, you know, the one without any hassle. you could say it is the idealised unreal life state that we're all pretty much addicted to.

:et's be clear, of course several of those strategies have their rightful place in our armoury. We haven't evolved them for nothing! No one for example would question the prudence of arranging whatever insulation we can, since we live in troubled times. and although the fiction strategy may not keep any actual problems at bay, it probably helps to lessen the anxiety those problems create. But the key question surely has to be, can this possibly be enough? Is this the best we can do?

And the reason that question is so relevant is that this is not some remote or theoretical issue is it? It is close up and very personal. We're talking about real life-time strategies here, that involve all of us, throughout all our lives. This is how we actually handle the daily detail of our lives. And we could certainly argue I think that learning how to deal with problems effectively has got to be one of the most important steps along the road to well-being. What can be more important? So we share a deep and common interest I suggest, in posing this question as to whether or not these strategies are adequate. Are they anywhere close to the best response that we can come up with? How in fact does Buddhism help us to answer that question?

Thanks for reading thus far.
See you next time.
Best wishes,
PS The Case for Buddhism is available from Amazon and as a download on kindle.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

my buddhist blog number 167

Hi Everybody,
New day. New chapter in UK's history, article 50 and all that. New Chapter in the book...Buddhism and the Problem Paradox.!! OK here we go.
' Man was born to troubles as the sparks fly upwards, Job tells us eternally in the Old Testament, but few of us if any are prepared to accept that as an accurate description of the reality of our lives. No way. We're simply not having it. No one wants pains or problems, or the anxiety and the tension and the stress that arise as they threaten to emerge in our lives. So the natural human response is to argue that since we can't stand them, we have to get rid of them! And that in fact is pretty much what we try to do. In our modern societies we spend huge amounts of time and money and energy and ingenuity in trying to create a defensive network to keep the challenging and the anxiety-creating side of life at bay. And where we aren't completely successful in the barrier-building business, as we can't be of course, we have evolved a whole series of secondary strategies to fill the gaps.

So we ignore them for example, or run away from them, in the hope that they will just go away or evaporate. The reality is of course that problems ignored have a very nasty habit of becoming problems magnified, so that what was once readily solvable, if only we'd had the courage to face up to it when it first emerged, can become something so big that it can overwhelm us and knock us over.

Or we very commonly dump the problem onto someone else. That is to say we mentally shift the blame or the responsibility onto someone or something outside ourselves, pointing to anything so long as it's not us, as the source of the current difficulty. If there are problems within a relationship for example, it's not our problem, it's clearly because the other half of the relationship has to change something about themselves in order to put things right. If there's trouble with the boss or colleagues at work it's bound to be because they are being totally obstinate or unreasonable or unfair. Everyone can see that. So we end up in a sort of impasse.Nothing changes, and the frustration or the friction keep on recurring, to the extent that it can lead to the break up of an otherwise fine relationship, or people being stuck in a state of tension or dissatisfaction at work.

We have all been there at some stage in our lives, and many times more than once.

So what can we do about it?
Watch this space.
See you next time hopefully,
Best wishes,
The Case for Buddhism is available on Amazon in English and Spanish.
And as a download on Kindle.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

my buddhist blog number 166

Hi Everybody,
Beautiful spring day here in the UK. Blue skies. Warm west wind. Cherry blossom is out. So is the white hawthorne blossom in the hedgerows. Definitely springtime. We're in the middle of this chapter on Buddhism and happiness , and we've reached a sub-heading....who needs problems?

No one comes the answer! None of us wants problems. Not ever. Of course we know in our hearts that problems and difficulties and challenges and crises of one kind or another are part of the fabric of all our lives, and utterly inescapable. In that sense we are all in the same boat, however different our life circumstances might seem on the outside. But for some reason we cling to the belief, the deeply-held desire, that the problems and the pain and suffering they tend to bring with them, are the exception rather than the rule.

The research shows that very different people facing completely different sorts of problems, will use very similar language in explaining it away to themselves. ' This is not really how my life is,' we say to ourselves, ' I just have to get through this difficult phase I'm going through, and then my life will  straighten out and I'll get back to normal.'

We know that once we get over this rough patch we are unlucky enough to be going through at the moment, a tough time at work, or a financial crisis, or conflict in a relationship or whatever, then for sure, our life will return to its normal state of calm and equanimity. Because that's the life state we desire, a life state without problems!

The net result of that view of life is that happiness or well-being comes to be defined as the absence of problems. But of course, there is no such place. None of us knows anyone, not a single person, who lives such a life. The reality is that problems and challenges and difficulties just keep on coming pretty much all the time, in one area of our life or another. And given this view of life, it is little wonder that we have developed a whole series of ruses or strategies to try to deflect  the problems and the suffering we associate with them.

And that's where we go next, to look at what Buddhism has to tell us about living with the problems of life and how it is eminently possible for all of us to do that, without losing inner core of hope and optimism and well-being.

Hope to see you then.
Thanks for reading.
Best wishes,
The Case for Buddhism is available on Amazon and as a download on Kindle.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

my Buddhist blog number 165

Hi Everybody,
 We're right in the middle of what I think is a really important chapter on Buddhism and Happiness, and we're picking up where we left off last time, answering the question ' can we buy it? ' And that leads us on a to a discussion of a key factor in all our lives that the psychologists call ' hedonic adaptation.' So here goes.

' So whatever external thing we desire in the belief that it will bring us significantly greater happiness, however much we convince ourselves that we need it, however profoundly life-changing  it might seem when we desire it, and indeed when we initially acquire it, turns out not to be so life changing after all. Indeed not at all.

There's no question that can be a very difficult lesson for us to take on board. We are so profoundly attached to the idea that these kinds of acquisitions will make us so much happier. But the body of research to the contrary is very substantial indeed. Hedonic adaptation is real!

So what does that mean in terms of our ordinary daily life? Well it's clear that although we may well get immense pleasure and satisfaction, and indeed a burst of genuine rapture at the moment of acquisition, and for a while afterwards, all the research shows that the while is vanishingly brief! The rapid adaptation to the new acquisition, or the new circumstance is an integral part of the human psyche, and from then on we're back to where we were. Square one. The new whatever becomes very much a part of the ordinary fabric of our lives.

And I think there's very little doubt, if we search even briefly through our own experience, few of us would suggest that our fundamental sense of well-being, or happiness in our lives has been substantially altered by any new material acquisition. The new car, the new kitchen, would we really say tha tit has re-shaped our happiness. I think not.

So this hedonic adaptation would seem to be the modern psychological explanation for a factor that Buddhism has been talking about for so long, namely that the external possessions  in our lives, or changes in those possession, even if on the surface they are quite substantial, have in fact a remarkably small impact on our enduring sense of well-being. It can be a profoundly unhappy-making delusion to believe that enduring, deep-seated happiness can be acquired in this way, externally as it were, as a result of some possession. any possession.

We only have to give that a moment's reflection to see that it amounts to a prfoundly behaviour-changing, life-changing lesson.'

Plenty enough for one swallow.
Thanks for reading.
See you next week.
PS The Case for Buddhism is available on Amazon and as a download on Kindle.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

my buddhist blog number 164

Hi Everybody,
There's beena bit of a gap because Sarah is playing at the RSC in Stratford on Avon and I've spent a bit of time up there with her.Today's episode is about what Buddhism calls the life state of hunger, and what modern psychology calls hedonic adaptation. OK here goes.
Since it lies at the root of a great deal of self-inflicted pain and suffering...and that's the key point to is self-inflicted. it is our choice...Nichiren Buddhism considers it important enough to flag it up for us, by giving this  itch-to-acquire stuff a name. It's called the life state of Hunger. Basically this is a state of more or less constant, restless dissatisfaction with our lives because we convince ourselves that our happiness lies in having something, or experiencing something that is just out of our reach. And in this life state, there is nearly always something that is just out of our reach. This restless dissatisfaction is not limited of course to just material things. It reaches out to into all the fields of human activity you can think of, from the desire for particular relationships or partners to the desire for more wealth than we happen to have, or status or fame and on to regaining youth and beauty through plastic surgery say. There's always something to want or yearn for. And it's by no means uncommon for people in this life state to fix their gaze on one thing after another in their environment, in the sure and certain knowledge...each time...that this will satisfy their deep hunger and bring them the happiness that so far has just eluded them.

The extraordinary thing...and i use that phrase advisedly because it is I think genuinely surprising...that modern psychology recognises something very similar indeed to what we have just been talking about. The term it uses to describe it is ' hedonic adapatation,'  Hedonic comes from the Greek word that means pleasure. Adaptation speaks for itself. So put simply this somewhat esoteric phrase means that we adapt with astonishing speed to new stuff., to any new material goods that we acquire. It simply becomes the new norm.

' The things that  we get used to most easily and most take for granted are our material possessions...our car, our house,. Advertisers understand this and invite us to ' feed our addiction' with more and more spending.'

But the key point to note is that the new acquisition changes nothing in terms of how we feel in the depths of our lives. Nothing changes in terms of our fundamental sense of well-being. '

Ok enough for today. Back at the end of the week with another episode.
Best wishes,
PS The case for Buddhism is available on Amazon and on Kindle.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

my Buddhist blog number 163

Hi Everybody,
Had a busy time over the past few weeks. The great  news is that a  major Italian publisher wants to put out this book and an earlier one called Buddhism and the Science of Happiness in various formats, including paperback and audio. I have to say I'm totally blown away by getting such support, so  I've been busy getting the various bits and pieces to them.

If you've been following the previous episodes we're in the middle of the chapter on happiness and we're talking about the dilemma that often confronts us in modern society where we have often allowed who we are to somehow become synonymous with what we have.

So what does Nichiren Buddhism have to say to help us re-balance ourselves in the face of this constant materialist onslaught that can deeply undermine our sense of self worth? It makes it clear right from the start that it is not about rejecting material possession. It's not about denial, or giving things up, since that doesn't of itself achieve anything. Nichiren Buddhism fully embraces both the material and the spiritual aspects of life, because both are clearly important to us. The absolute key it argues, to establishing a durable sense of well-being is awareness, recognising the situation  for what it really is seeing the threat to our stability and understanding that we need to establish a meaningful balance.

So for example, people who take up this practice are encouraged to chant for, and of course to take action for whatever it is they believe they need to achieve full and fulfilling lives. And that might certainly include material things, from a better income and financial security for example, to a better house and everything in between. Such things are an integral part of all our lives and can't simply be left out. But undoubtedly as we continue with the practice it radically changes our perspective. It puts the constant wanting of  things into a broader whole-life context.

while acquiring new things can undoubtedly be an extremely pleasurable experience...and why shouldn't it be cannot be the basis for the solid, lasting, resilient sense of well-being that we all seek. The pleasure in new possessions soon wears off, very soon in fact. And the only way to re-ignite that sort of pleasure is to get out there again into a fresh bout of retail therapy! We've all been at least some way down that road. Just look at the level of global credit card debt that was exposed in the crash of 2008. All we need we repeatedly persuade ourselves is that something else in the shopping mall or the showroom window....and we'll be really trulyt happy. Promise.

And then something else catches our attention...and on and on.

We're into the world of what Buddhism calls Hunger sate, and modern psychology calls Hedonic adaptation.

And that's where we go next time.
See you then. Best wishes,
Tne Case for Buddhism is available from  Amazon and as a download on Kindle