Is The Grass Always Greener?

We all want to make improvements in our lives. We look at what we have and wonder what could make it better. We buy the newest TV, the newest phone, the latest fashion trends, the nicest car; even if we can barely afford them. I’ll admit it, I’m just as guilty as everyone else in looking around at the excesses I own and wanting more. I have the iPhone (and I’m waiting for the opportunity to upgrade). I have four flat screen televisions in my home as well as an XBox, Apple TV, a MacBook Air, a Nook, a Kindle, an iPad, and of course I had to go buy the new Fiat when they were released here in the US. So, why do we do this to ourselves? We run up credit card bills, we drain our bank accounts, we maintain low to non-existent savings accounts all to make ourselves feel comfortable in our already comfortable lives.

As I’ve honed in on this idea I think back to other ways I’ve worried about the grass I see growing just beyond my fence. I have bounced back and forth, over the years, between teaching and retail jobs. When I would think about how little teachers get paid (of course forgetting how rewarding the job can be – not to mentions three months off a year), or how they are treated by their students and those students’ parents, my frustrations would turn to anger and I would find a retail position that paid slightly more. I then found I was working 12-14 hour days for bosses who were demanding and had unattainable expectations. When the realities would set in about my new and “better” career I would gaze back over my fence to see the plush green grass of teaching that I’d left behind. Neither job is perfect; each has their pros and cons. I am a good teacher and I am a good retail manager, but I will never be stellar at either if I continue jumping back and forth. I will also never find peace until I can fine the contentment in the job I currently hold.

Oh and then there are the relationships. I’ve dated some real jerks, let me tell you. The grass on the singlehood side of the fence was definitely, without a doubt, greener. On the other hand I have dated some great guys as well. Even though I knew how great they were my eyes would still wander to the other side of my relationship fence. I would often ask myself, “what if someone better comes along?” “What if this isn’t the person I’m meant to be with?” “What if I’m making a terrible mistake?” I would chat with random people, troll websites that someone in a relationship shouldn’t troll. I would find excuses why intimacy wasn’t plausible. I would place barriers between me and my partner. I didn’t work to tear them down, rather I fortified them and built them higher and more impenetrable. Instead of working to make and hold onto a great relationship I would find things wrong with my partners; turn them into bad guys to justify the breakdown of a perfectly good relationship. I want nothing more to break this pattern.

I have grown weary of staring at the other side of the fence. The time has come to water and fertilize the grass I’m standing on now. Teaching is rewarding, relationships are meaningful. I have to find my niche in each of these fertile fields and let the beauty of where I am standing permeate my very soul until I can find the peace and joy on my side of the fence.

Take a look around you. Be present on your side of the fence. Live in the now moment, don’t reach beyond. If you’re meant to be on the opposite side of the fence; if the grass is truly greener there, believe me life, the universe, God, the Goddess, who or whatever force you believe in will gently guide you there.

Namasté

Matthew

What have I started?

I have definitely unleashed a monster.  I can’t sleep anymore.  All I do is think of new blog post ideas.  I hope I don’t lose the momentum and the excitement I’ve created in myself, but sleep would be nice.

Disappointment

How are we supposed to handle disappointment?  Let’s be honest, we face disappointment on a regular basis; both large and small.  We find it when our favorite restaurant is out of our usual culinary delights or when we arrive for happy hour to discover that it ended 15 minutes earlier.  We also confront larger disappointments when we are let down by those we care about or worse, when we let ourselves down.

The idea for this blog post came to me earlier this week when I was turned down for a job I’d interviewed for; my summer employment.  Of course I was disappointed that the job fell through, but where I felt the most confusion was in the fact that I felt disappointment at all.  I had, just a few days earlier, decided I wasn’t going to take the job. So, instead of disappointment, I should have felt relief.  But ultimately rejection brings disappointment to the forefront of our emotions.

In the end it boils down to this simple idea: I wasn’t wanted.  It isn’t the first time I’ve faced this realization.  I’ve been rejected by people I wanted to date.  I’ve been rejected for jobs.  I’ve been rejected for promotions.  I was once even rejected for rejecting someone (it’s a long story but they refused to accept the fact that we would not be dating).  Rejection does not feel good. No matter what spin you place on it, you’ve still been measured and found wanting.

The question then becomes, what do I do with these emotions?  How do I take this negative kick in the gut and transform that into a positive.  My answer? I have no freakin’ clue.  But I know what has been working for me lately.  The power of the affirmation.  I used to be a self-help junkie.  Of all the books on improvement I’ve read my favorite, by far, is Louise L. Hay’s book You Can Heal Your Life.  In it she extolls the virtues of positive affirmations.  I plaster them all over my bathroom mirror.  But for many that is probably going too far.  However, reminding yourself that you are strong, or powerful, or just simply saying “thank you” to yourself can make a positive difference in how you’re feeling.

I’ll fully admit that when I began my practice of affirmations I felt like a complete idiot.  Staring at myself in a mirror saying, “You are a powerful human being,” was completely unnatural and I was more than a little embarrassed.  Then, without completely acknowledging it, I started to feel better.  Less disappointment, less fear, less anger.  Did it solve the issue completely? No.  Did it take the edge off the emotions? Yes.  Just as with my anger, I sit with my disappointments as well.  I nurture them to find the root of my deeper pain.  The expectations I have set for myself, and worse, for others, has led to much of my disappointment in life.  As the Buddha taught, the cessation of desire leads to happiness.  Does that mean I stop wanting and striving and hoping?  No.  But I work, through my practice, to keep those in check and keep my disappointment at bay.

The next time you’re faced with disappointment sit with it, nurture it, delve into to it to find the deeper meaning.  For it is only through greater understanding that we can control and eventually conquer our difficult emotions.

Namasté

Matthew

Why am I angry?

I am an angry person.  I imagine many people could say that about themselves in our modern society.  We are inundated with angry stories on the news, angry politicians and political commentators that attempt to persuade us to share in their righteous indignation.  I feel it. I get angry with my students, I get angry with myself, and I certainly get angry with other drivers that I share the road with.  I used to drive a Honda Element and when I got mad I pictured myself a seething pit bull.  Now that I drive my more economical Fiat, I am more in line with a seething chihuahua.  When my anger kicks into high gear I swerve around cars, yell, cuss, grip the wheel tighter; anything I can think of at the time.  I try to remember my breathing: “in 2-3-4 and out 2-3-4.”  But it winds up being more to the effect of “in out in out in out in out,” turning me from a seething chihuahua to a hyperventilating seething chihuahua.  This is all to the chagrin to any passengers that may be riding with me in the car, fearing for their lives.

This anger has come to a boil on two separate occasions.  Both, ironically, towards the end of a relationship I was in at the time.  My first boiling point happened as I was driving with my partner.  I became so irrationally angry that I had to pull the car over and have him drive the rest of the way.  I cannot remember what triggered the anger, but I recall how it enveloped me completely, like a thick wet blanket that was smothering me.  I could not escape it.  When he took over driving it was nearly thirty minutes before I calmed down enough to feel like I was back to “myself”.  The other occasion I am even less proud of.  I hit my partner (not the same person as the driving incident), two separate times.  No blood was drawn, no bruises or marks were left.  The first time it happened he announced, rather coldly, that he had been cheating on me and I punched him in the chest as hard as I could.  This error in my anger clouded judgement immediately put me in the wrong.  The second time I became physical he informed me, equally as coldly, that he was leaving so he could continue to sleep around.  I pushed him into a chain link fence.

Now some might say he deserved these actions for cheating, but in my mind violence is never the response I want to have toward any aspect of my life.  In fact, anger is not a response I want to have either.  Especially the anger that explodes into such a negative outcome.  The first experience in the car led me to therapy.  The second, more violent episodes, led me to anti-anxiety/anti-depression medications.  But the aftermath of both of these events did not lead me to a greater understanding of my anger.

Sure, therapy helped scratch the surface, but I needed a deeper explanation.  And I began to brush at the edges of that explanation when I started my yoga practice (Please understand I use the terms yoga and buddhist practice interchangeably; to me they are one and the same and cannot be separated in my mind or heart.  I hope this doesn’t offend any of the purists that may read this.).  As I became more adept at yoga and began reading and studying more I began to actively ponder my anger issues.  I began reading Anger by Thich Nhat Hanh (can you tell already I love this guy?) and the Tricycle Teachings e-book Anger (which you can download for free from the Tricycle website if you’re interested http://www.tricycle.com).  As I read these books I remember smiling, laughing, and crying.  I didn’t know I was allowed to be angry.  These great Buddhist teachers were telling me it was ok, embrace your anger.  WHAT?  Are you kidding me?  Embrace it? Be ok with being angry? Wait, that can’t be right.  Then came the catch…I can’t let the anger control me.  Well damn, how am I supposed to do that?

Well, here’s what I came up with.  It isn’t going to happen all at once.  I know, many of you are saying, “duh genius, you can’t make life altering changes instantly.”  But, now would be a good time to mention I’ve always been an instant gratification kind of guy.  If I see it, I buy it.  If I go to the gym I want to loose ten pounds after my first visit (yes, I recognize the ridiculousness of that statement).  But this isn’t going to be instant and often I won’t feel gratified.  But it is a start.  Now I work on sitting with my anger.  I take a few deep deliberate breaths and try to step back from the situation.  This has been working as a start.  However, my major “ah-ha” occurred when I realized the root of all of my anger.  Are you ready for this?

C-O-N-T-R-O-L.

When I feel I’m not in control, anger is the response that I default to.  This very idea was like a thousand light bulbs going on at one time.  How could I not have recognized it before?  I get angry at my students when they won’t do what I say (of course they won’t they’re 11).  I get mad at drivers when I can’t travel at the speed I want and move freely about the road.  I get mad at myself when I can’t loose the weight I want, or can’t attend my yoga classes as regularly as I’d like. I was flying high when this realization hit me and it has made all the difference.

I’d like to be able to tell you that I now have complete control over my anger and that I can face any situation with calm and aplomb.  That is not, however, the case.  But I am on the right path.  I try to stay in the moment as the anger is rising.  I try to remember my breathing and the deeper reasoning of my anger.  I’m not there yet, not even close, but I’m happy to say I feel lighter for making the attempts to improve my anger; to sit with it and embrace it.  Try embracing your anger as well, what could it hurt?  It’s better than lashing out at the people you care most about.

Namasté

Matthew

How it started

It all began rather innocuously.  I posted on my Facebook account, the following: “I’m not sure when I became a Buddhist.  I’m not completely sure it was a conscious effort.  But here I am now, feeling as though Buddhism and yoga are where I feel most comfortable.  Does that mean I’m a Buddhist-Hindu?”

These thoughts had entered my consciousness quite often in the previous weeks and months.  I had been attending yoga on a regular basis for about a year.  I’d lost forty pounds through diet and my yoga practice.  Each time I’d go to class at my yoga studio, I found I would arrive earlier and earlier and read the different Buddhist publications strewn about the reception area.  They had Tricycle, Buddha Dharma, and Shambhala Sun.  I’d devour a new magazine each time. I began subscribing to these magazines and reading books on Buddhism I’d purchased before, but somehow, never got around to reading.

However, it was all academic.  Or so I had originally thought.  But then, as I began reading Happiness by Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh I began to realize I had a framework, however slight, for my Buddhist practice. Thanks to my yoga practice I was already working on the awareness of breath that is the foundation of the teachings in Happiness.  I couldn’t tell you even one percent of the terminology that accompanies the understanding of a fully realized Buddhist, but I have the beginnings of a practice.

I am hoping this blog will help me capture my progress into the faith I am choosing to follow, not the one I was born into.  As issues arise I will blog about them and see where that leads me.  I already know I am terrible at meditation, so those will be amusing posts for you to read.  I will do my best to keep it interesting and keep you excited.

You will, I hope, forgive me in advance, as I combine, juxtapose, and inadvertently and irreverently use Buddhist, Hindu, Wiccan, Goddess Worship, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Celtic, Druid and any other I can think of, terms throughout this blog.  I also have a tendency to ramble and write stream of consciousness.  I will endeavor to keep everything as coherent as possible.

Thank you for joining me on my spiritual travels.

Namasté

Matthew