Things to remember from “Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World”

(220) “When we surround ourselves with beauty, we are likely to experience a moment. We have our “peak experiences” on the beach or prairie, in a mountain meadow or beside a river. We experience moments at concerts, art galleries, or the theater. However, most of us can’t get to those places on a regular basis. We are encased in offices, crowded apartments, commuter trains, highways and shopping malls. To create moments in our daily lives, we must have a new set of skills for making magic out of the ordinary. Psychology and all the great spiritual traditions teach these skills.”

“Fortunately, the more moments we find, the more we learn to find them. The process is not unlike being receptive to the muse. Artists know that to access their creativity, they must somehow be curious and attentive.

“With a certain attitude, everything is significant. With an ‘are we there yet?’ mentality, we are doomed.”

(218) “A very simple definition of mindfulness is doing one thing at a time. If we are planting some turnips… that is all we are doing.”

(207) “Of course, I do not hold myself up as a paragon of mental health. But who is? I will always be a misfit in many ways. However, I now realize we are all misfits, at least to ourselves. We all secretly suspect we are freaks, uniquely burdened and especially crazy. Yet that doesn’t mean we can’t find our place on earth and feel loved and welcomed here.”

(206) “I wanted to do the right thing, and as is often the case, I couldn’t figure out what it was. Finally, I just laughed at myself for my constant moral questioning. I realized that I didn’t have to be good, I was good.”

“I granted myself the right to have the same needs as others had for nurturance and respect. I accepted gifts of kindness.”

(186) “Meditation also taught me the difference between being awake and being habit-bound. I wanted reminders that helped me stay present. I had neither temple bells nor anyone who would ring them for me, so I decided that the song of birds would call my attention to the present moment. Whenever I heard a bird, I tried to remember to stop, breath and observe what was happening. Fortunately, I have many birds around me most of the time.”

(183) “Pema Chodron writes, ‘The antidote to misery is to stay present.’ … While I was hoping for a better moment, I missed the one I was in. I once read a bumper sticker that proclaimed: “Having a Good Time. Wish I Was Here.” That could have been coined for me.”

(167) “It helps to realize we are not alone. One thing I like to do is send my silent good wishes to people all over the wolrd who have problems exactly like my own. Contexts may change, but emotions are universal… We all have our little rituals.”

(161) “I made another important decision: I was finished with the self-improvement projects I had launched my whole life. All of my goals to better myself had become gaols, prisons that kept me from accepting myself. My constant efforts to imrpove had been a form of self-aggression. Now I wanted to accept myself as I was. Psychologist Carl Rogers formulated what he called ‘the paradox of change,’ which is that people can change only in an environment of utter acceptance and regard. I wanted to create a mental environment in which I viewed myself as someone who deserved to be understood and cherished, rather than criticized and improved. My goal was healing and self-reclamation.”

(134) “I have long believed that happiness is a matter of satisfying daily, weekly, montly and yearly routines. Over the years we developed these for ourselves. Our daily routines were built around meals, works, talks and bird-watching. Saturday morning I had coffee with my writer’s group. Out-of-town family and friends regularly came for visists. In the spring our family canoed and and in the fall we camped. In March we traveled west to watch the annual crane migration.”

(26-27) “Misery spares no social class or culture. External conditions do not totally determine happiness. To say that all privileged people should feel nothing but joy is to assert that all people in dire circumstances should feel nothing but sorrow. While our lives may be different in many ways, our hearts are much alike. We experience the same ever-changing gamut of emotions. Indeed, it is the human condition to feel hope, fear, joy and sorrow. To deny anyone’s right to a complete set of human reactions is to deny our common humanity.”

(243) “Like everyone else on the planet, I walk through days of miracles and tragedies. Sorrow and fear, love and peace, are daily as intertwined as smoke and sky. As I grow older, though, my life is filled with more moments of joy. Even when I am deep pain, I can rescue myself by noticing a small beautiful thing. A golden leaf turning in a cobweb or the smell of a gardenia can stop me in my tracks. Heaven is all around me just waiting for me to notice. As Mary Oliver wrote in her poem ‘Messenger,’ ‘My work is loving the world.’ “

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