Archive | February 2014


 “We also see that mental proliferation has a solidifying effect on it; it makes aversion into something much more solid. But the more we contemplate proliferation, the less powerful it is. This change of relationship has a specific word in Pali,nibbida, which means `getting happily tired of something we’ve been doing to ourselves’ for years, decades, desperately and ignorantly, and not only to ourselves. Another way of translating nibbida is `serene disenchantment’, with the emphasis being on `serene’. It’s a situation in which we’re not drawn any more to fanning the flames, to fuelling the aversion. Whenever we catch ourselves about to do these things, we tend to drop it more and more.” The Pain of Attachment, by Corrado Pensa, Posted on 26 December 2012 by Buddhism Now

Nibbida sounds fascinating, like a form of what I might call “equanimous disgust.” It sounds like a joy in dropping dysfunctional behavior. It is what everyone hopes quitting an addiction will be like, but seldom is. It sounds like what an addict can feel like, once the physical withdrawal symptoms subside and has been in recovery for years.

I believe this state comes from meditation, which is just the continual letting go of mind and body. It’s emotional simplification, the mind and body equivalent of de-cluttering, an acknowledgment that the things we have been previously cherishing are truly worthless. This is emotional cleansing at its finest.


“Samvega was what the young Prince Siddhartha felt on his first exposure to aging, illness, and death. It’s a hard word to translate because it covers such a complex range — at least three clusters of feelings at once: the oppressive sense of shock, dismay, and alienation that come with realizing the futility and meaninglessness of life as it’s normally lived; a chastening sense of our own complacency and foolishness in having let ourselves live so blindly; and an anxious sense of urgency in trying to find a way out of the meaningless cycle….In fact, early Buddhism is not only confident that it can handle feelings of samvega but it’s also one of the few religions that actively cultivates them to a radical extent. Its solution to the problems of life demand so much dedicated effort that only strong samvega will keep the practicing Buddhist from slipping back into his or her old ways.” Affirming the Truths of the Heart, The Buddhist Teachings on Samvega & Pasada, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, on Access to Insight website

Part of what I appreciate about Buddhism is its honesty about just how we’ve been living our lives. Samvega says, “I’ve been doing what with my life? I’ve spent how many years on this stupid treadmill at work in the hopes of getting a promotion, all so I could do what exactly? What am I doing with my life? How is this helping to prevent the suffering of anyone at all?”

As a Christian, I found an alarming amount of complacency. It was as if, once you found Jesus, everything was fine and nothing more needed to be tended to because you had already achieved the number one goal of life: becoming a Christian. That kind of complacency is death to emotional, social, and intellectual growth. I’ve seen it most of my life and still see it in Christians I meet. Their days of intellectual inquiry are over. I have left such folks in the dust.

Never stop making the effort. Examine your life. Take nothing based on someone else’s word. Do something to make your corner of the world better, whether others understand or care or not. Never stop growing. So much needs to be done and so few people are awake enough to even realize it.


Use of Resources

I got my new computer and it was already pre-programmed with tons of advertising. I feel like our culture conspires to keep us from living simple lives. I had to figure out how to get rid of the advertising I did not want. I have decided never to click on advertising. If I wish to purchase something, I will go hunting for the item myself. I am so ridiculously tired of being marketed to.

No more diddling around online. I am looking for ways to use my computer sparingly and productively. Leo Babauta is a great help. I have a few of his books now. They keep me on track

I am determined to be much more careful in my use of resources. What do I want in my life? To learn how to provide a safe space for others, to be helpful to humanity, that kind of thing. I want to learn Access and how to make myself more valuable to businesses. I want to make the energy I have count.

I’m Back

I have a new computer. I am very impressed with the speed of Staples getting my laptop ready.

One thing I don’t like: that my computer comes pre-programmed with so much advertising. I couldn’t even get solitaire without a Microsoft account. Seriously? I feel so target marketed.

This experience only reinforces my determination to use my resources more wisely. I plan on doing a lot less diddling around on this computer and focusing on learning how to use Access. I got Office Professional because I want to make myself more valuable. Who would you rather hire: someone with a tablet or someone with a laptop complete with the whole shebang of MS Office? Being minimalist isn’t just about spending less money, but more about spending money more on things with strategic importance.

Going Offline for a While

My computer is dying. I will be replacing it, but these things take time.

Approval and Adulthood

“Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner. Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.” Tao Te Ching, Chapter 9, Stephen Mitchell translation

These are words to live by, but I still needed other people’s approval until just recently. As a female, I was not raised to be emotionally independent. My mother couldn’t give me what she didn’t have.

I could have saved myself years of church attendance and emotional manipulation had I not been so willing to be someone’s prisoner. There is always the seductive lie: “Obey me and I will take care of you.” The truth is much simpler: “Obey me and waste years of your life and keep our dysfunctional system going. Oh, by the way, we never intended to take care of you; you were always on your own. Your needs didn’t get met? That’s your own fault (for being stupid enough to believe the lie in the first place).”

I’m a little bitter, but mostly I just feel duped. My emotional needs advertised themselves to authority figures and made me an easy target. Christians refer to my upbringing as “training,” as in “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Buddhists refer to this emotional hell as “conditioned existence,” the source of much suffering and precisely what we are to depart from to achieve emotional freedom and adulthood. One philosophy encourages perpetual childhood; the other promotes maturity. I so lost myself in Christianity; I only hope I can find myself before I die.

My Guiding Lights

“He who defines himself can’t know who he really is.” Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 24, Stephen Mitchell translation


I could not agree more, but there are hazards here. One can easily rebel against being defined by others and simply end up creating an opposite definition of oneself.

Leaving church, it would be easy for me to become an atheist, but saying that there is no God is no better than being an evangelist. I would still be pretending to know something I don’t—whether there is a god.

My fundamental issue at this point in my life is that I am not so many things I used to be (like Christian, interested in living in Michigan, conservative, uneducated, etc.) and don’t have anything yet to replace them. I have opened up a void. I am searching and may always be searching forever. I am between lives, hence my title “bardoinbetween.”

I am just as resistant to labeling myself as to being labeled by others. I have no assurance that I will believe in 10 years anything I believe today.

I am awed by the world, its complexity, and its simplicity. Everything is connected. Everyone has choices. Never underestimate people’s awareness. Be good to everyone or it will come back to bite you in the butt. The bigger picture you take into consideration, the better choices you can make. These are my guiding lights, regardless of how I may (or may not) define myself.

New World

“Our soul work, quite simply, is to find and remove whatever gets in the way of our being who we are.” Angeles Arrien Walking the Mystical Path with Practical Feet, Lotus, Winter 1991 issue

That sounds so simple and like a recipe for minimalism, but that’s not necessarily what it is. It could also just as easily be a motivation for questioning our participation in any and all organizations, especially hierarchies that work very well for the few and not so well for the many.

I see a new world being born. I see it in community-supported agriculture, in non-profits meeting the needs of citizens (and avoiding bureaucracies as much as possible), in Buddhism and peace spreading far and wide, and so many other ingenious and ultimately subversive activities.

The old, conservative guard is feeling rightfully threatened. Their world is falling apart, without a doubt. The problem for them is that they lack the flexibility to respond appropriately to a quickly-changing world. While they wait for permission to do something, some young person is taking responsibility (there’s a concept!) and simply doing what needs to be done, with or without anyone else’s approval.

Young people are not waiting for permission to live their lives anymore.

It used to be that older people would patronizingly pat the heads of young people and say, “Someday, you’ll understand.” Now, it’s the young person patting the elder’s head, saying, “I know you don’t approve. That’s okay. I don’t expect you to understand.”

Wow. What a different world I live in. It’s beautiful to those of us that welcome it. It, literally, is the end of the world for people trying to live in a past long gone. Pity is the only response.

Getting Out

I was starting to feel too “minimalistic,” as if I could not hope to enjoy myself or go anywhere. When I realized that that was how I felt, I knew I was missing the point. The idea isn’t to not go anywhere and not do anything; the idea is to make room for what’s important to me.

The weather today was sucking much less than usual this winter and I felt a huge case of cabin fever. All I wanted to do was go anywhere, anywhere at all. So I did. I went to a local bookstore that I hadn’t been to in months. (Who wants to go anywhere when the wind chill is minus twenty degrees?) It felt absolutely wonderful. It was the most I’ve enjoyed myself in months. I’d needed some stimulation and variety and didn’t know how badly.

Life isn’t about deprivation. It’s about knowing what’s important to you.

Knowing My Possesions

I’ve been thinking long and hard lately about what I want. It’s not minimalism, but something along those lines. I want to know everything I have.

I don’t want to look for things I know I have but can’t figure out where. I don’t want to find things and think to myself, “I wish I’d known I had that when _____.”

I was sorting through some clothes in my closet and realized that I only need a few more things for a professional-ish wardrobe. I don’t need much more. I really do have some nice skirts and shirts. I also realized that I will probably never iron on a regular basis. That means I need knits and permanent press. It doesn’t matter how perfectly something fits or how good it makes me look if I end up avoiding wearing it because it still needs ironing from a year ago.

I don’t have the ability to take care of everything I have—partly because I don’t know what all I have! Living on a fixed income, I don’t have the ability to just go out and buy things I already have only because I can’t find them.

It all has to come from within. External motivation simply doesn’t cut it when the stress level gets high enough. No threat of punishment or potential for reward can make me give a damn when I am burned out or exhausted from taking care of Barry or shoveling. I don’t have the motivation to be a minimalist, but I feel a need to know what I possess. Very different.