Materialism

It is slightly awkward and entirely satirical that I find myself writing about this topic. Over the years, I’ve read many articles that talk about over indulged developed countries juxtaposed with developing countries that struggle to feed their population. At some point in time, I have come to peace with myself that as long as I’m not spending beyond my means then it would be okay.

Last week, I battled with my own materialism, in a very real physical way. I was tasked with packing our condo for a temporary move back to my parents. We lived in a 570 sq. ft. condo, and I was of the belief that we did not own that much “stuff”. But when I began packing, I realized that “not that much” was a lot!

Here is a photo for those that want to see the progress. (Not even at the half way point yet) Untitled The realization was much more epic as I packed boxes after boxes, and somewhere along the way, I threw out my back. When we finished packing and we had approximately 35 boxes. The complete breakdown is as follows:

    • 3 boxes of shoes;
    • 3 boxes of alcohol;
    • 15 boxes of clothes;
    • 6 boxes of books; and
    • 8 boxes of kitchen/ pantry items

I’m not sure when and how all this accumulated, but the visualization of this was a bit of a shock for me. Half the boxes were food related and the other half clothes, which I think is quite befitting of our life style. And this is the after photo of me being lost in all our stuff. Untitled After packing everything away, I packed a backpack of items that I treasure which includes:

  • My Gohonzon
  • 3 irreplaceable collectors items that I will save for another time to disclose
  • Laptop & Cell phone
  • Wallet

As I looked at the empty condo, with my backpack on, I felt light. I felt like all I ever need is in this backpack so why do I have so much stuff to begin with? There was an urge at that point in time to head to the airport, see what flights were leaving YYZ, and just take off. Resisting that urge was a test of will and you would not believe how hard it was.

I remember a quote from Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, The Doctrines of Three Thousand Realms:

We see that this fleshly form received in birth from our parents, this body bound by earthly desires, is none other than the Thus Come One who has existed always and is ever-abiding. This is what is called the attainment of Buddhahood in one’s present form, the realization that earthly desires are none other than enlightenment and that the sufferings of birth and death are none other than nirvana.

At this time when we gaze at the phenomenal world, we see that all things conform to the single principle of the Middle Way, and that the Buddha and living beings are one.

This passage reminds us that we are all humans, and because we are humans we have earthly desires.  But, at the same time, it is these desires that propel us forward in life and make us continue to strive for the next best thing. What is important is to not allow these desires to engulf and blind us, while on the other hand to not deprive ourselves of the pleasures of life.

It goes on to explain that, the realization that these earthly desires, as well as birth, aging, sickness and death are all cycles of life. True happiness comes from the principle of Middle Way where we are not swayed by the ups and downs in life, and that we develop strong inner strength and character.

So after 35 boxes, 1 crazy day of moving, and a sprained back I’ve learned to come to peace with my materialism again. I’ve forgiven myself a little, learned that if I were to lose it all one day I should always remember that I already have what I need.

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Symptoms and Diagnosis

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Symptoms:

– Restlessness
– Occasionally tantrums for no apparently reason
– Obsessively reading through travel blogs on the internet
– Staring at the world map and having fun looking at all the countries I’ve never been to
– Wandering into the travel section of book stores
– Secretly being jealous of other people’s travel on social media

Diagnosis:

These symptoms appeared a month and a half ago or so. I didn’t understand what it was all about. Other than R’s insanely long tax season which took a slight toll on me, I was otherwise a happy camper. It wasn’t until I started reading a lot of travel blogs, and talking things out with R that I realized I need to pack up and travel again.

When I started sharing my concerns with some friends, the unanimously response was: “You just came back from Denmark and Sweden 3.5 months ago. And not to mention 3.5 months before that you were in Turkey and the Balkans.”

I stared blankly at them. I believe I’ve come to accept the fact that the more I traveled, the more I need to travel. It sounds like the vicious cycle of a drug user.

With that being said, R and I have a long over due trip and yesterday we finally booked our next destination.

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In less than 2 months, we will be going from YYZ > HKG > KTM > HKG > YYZ. We have a 1 day layover in HKG on our way there and on the way back. I honestly have not been back to HKG for over 8 years now. I’m sure a lot has changed and I’m really excited to see what it’s all about. This time, I’ll have my camera with me as well. I’m really hoping to get some nice photos of HKG. In addition to seeing Em, shopping, food..etc

As for KTM, I can not contain my excitement. Don’t even ask me about our plans because I will not be able to stop gloating. We have a little more than 2 weeks in KTM, and we are planning on seeing the Kathmandu Valley as well as trekking to Everest Base Camp. I’m a little nervous about the altitude sickness and the weather. I hope we will get some fantastic weather for the 2 weeks, but it’s unrealistic to hope for no rain at all. We will have to be extra prepared.

We started doing a lot of research already, and I will be updating this blog with progress of our prep work.

Standing Tall

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Photo: Ihlara Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey

I’ve always considered myself to be very lucky.  Through traveling and various lucky encounters I had the opportunity to meet a lot of really amazing people in my life.

Today, for whatever reason I thought about my encounters with Spencer West.  I was really lucky to have met him through Alex, a friend from SGI.  The first time I met him was through SGI meetings, then I saw him again when I volunteered for We Day.  I also have a few friends that work for Free the Children so I was lucky enough to get a signed copy of Spencer’s book, ” Standing Tall: My Journey”.  In the book he wrote, “Stand tall Stella”. It was so encouraging and inspiring.

Spencer’s story is amazing if you have not heard of him yet. Reading his story made me realize that the a lot of the limitations in our lives are the ones we place ourselves. We must overcome our own weakness and fears if we want to take on the bigger challenge of helping others become happy.

Along the same lines, when I took this picture I marveled at all tall and straight the trees are. It made me think of this quote from Nichiren Daishonin:

A blue fly, if it clings to the tail of a thoroughbred horse, can travel ten thousand miles, and the green ivy that twines around the tall pine can grow to a thousand feet.

This quote talks about the importance of having a correct life philosophy.  Something that will withstand the test of time, and a philosophy that is for the people.  I find this is true if you have true friends in life.  Friends and mentors that can become your tree, people that can help you surpass your limit.

Friends that can help you stand tall.
So that you can stand tall for others.

Genius is divine perseverance.

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Photo: Cappadocia, Turkey

It seems that life never really gives you a break.  Just when you can almost see the light, just when you feel like you are almost there shit happens. Shit always manage to happen!  The next thing you know you are putting out one fire after another.  I’ve always wondered if life is just a tiring exercise of getting through all the curve balls, lemons, and *insert any object of your choice* that is thrown at you.

I remember a passage from Daisaku Ikeda.  He said (paraphrasing now) that anyone can go through rough patches.  It’s not enough to just get through it, but you have to get through it and come out a stronger, better person.  This passage is exactly what I needed at this very moment. So thank goodness for diligent reading and all the Buddhist meetings I’ve attended.  Problems in life never really do go away -if they do than you need to share your secret with me.  It’s not that life gets easier, or that problems go away.  It’s that we get better.  We expand our capacity to deal with shit hitting the fan and various flying objects coming your way.

So to all those people who are dealing with difficulties now, never give up.  Because..

…genius is divine perseverance.

Dancing in the rain…

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For the past week, I’ve been sitting antsy in my 5 x 5 cubicle at work, in my 20 x 15 study, and laying restless staring up at my 15 x 15 room ceiling.  There are a number of things that I’m definitely not good at, and leading the lineup is patience.  I’m very much a go go go kind of person, and being patient has always been an ideology not often practiced by me.  Let me begin by explaining why it’s hard for me.

Time is the resource constraint.  Remember that movie with Justin Timberlake – In Time? I love it.  The movie explores a fascinating concept where time is the new currency.  If I’m going to be patient and take my time, then it means I am going to invest time in “X”.  Any wise investor would then ask themselves, is this the best investment vehicle or are there other options?  The process involves weighing out the possibilities and options.  Keeping things simple, according to Wiki Answer there are approximately 620 verbs in the English language.  Let’s say only 25% of those verbs is applicable in the given situation.  That still leaves 155 possible actions that can be taken.   Short of having to sit down and draw out a decision tree, this is the thought process I have to go through before I decide that not doing anything is the best option.  80% of the time I run through the list of possible the actions and have come to a decision before reaching the last resort of not taking action.  This is a long and cumbersome process, and trust me not every situation will command this kind of analysis from me.  An initial cost benefit is done before such a detail decision process is undertaken.  If I decide that the issue is of non-importance, then I will file it into the “I don’t give a shit” cabinet and move on.

In short, if I have not taken action it could mean one of two things.

  1. You are so important that I have decided you warrant my time. I will practice patience.
  2. You are sitting in the “I don’t give a shit” cabinet.

I have rambled on for a bit, but the point is there are so many options that one can take, and yet so many chose to sit still and wait for the storm to pass…

Instead of waiting for the storm to pass, learn to dance in the rain.

What if the storm never passes, the door never opens,  the email never comes…?  No patience in this world will help you clear the clouds, open doors, or fill your inbox.  So without further adieu, put on some rain boots and get outside!

The Mundane

Bu Nedir

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mundane (adj.)

  • Lacking interest or excitement; dull.
  • Of this earthly world rather than a heavenly or spiritual one

It was a few years ago that I started to recognize something was missing in my life.  It was always easy for me to do the right thing –keeping up with grades, getting a job, and giving it all at work.  Every day felt like a cycle on loop with no pause button.  I was never able to find the missing piece until I went to Japan to study for a semester. I never realized that getting a job, making money and growing old wasn’t the only option I had in life.

Now looking back I have come to call this endless loop “The Mundane”.  Although, commonly used as an adjective, it is actually best used as a noun.

When I traveled for the first time ever, it felt like…

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Fall for me

Although Fall doesn’t officially arrive until September 22, the first day of school has always traditionally marked the first day of Fall for me.

Fall for me, has always been nostalgic.  This year, these feelings were compounded.  Over the weekend, LC was in town for her brother’s wedding.  (Congratulations to the happy couple!)

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It was a very nice wedding, with a small venue and only close family and friends.  I felt privileged to have been invited.  It’s been a little more than a year since LC was back and all four of us have hung out together.  Time has an odd way of sneaking away without notice.  I remember a few years ago, learning of the news that Bobby proposed to his now wife, we were all shocked.  But when we learned that the wedding was to be held in 2013, we all said “well that’s a long time away”.  Have we grown up so quickly, or did time just slip pass us and we failed to grow up with time?  If time actually flew by that quickly, then how is it that even though I have not seen LC for more than a year, it felt like I only saw her yesterday?  Every time we are apart, time froze and we were always able to pick right back up where we left off.  There’s definitely something to be said about friendship that stands the test of time and distance.

Here’s a stroll down memory lane…

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Fall for me, has always been a time to reflect.  Reflect on the seeds that I’ve sown in the Spring.  What have I accomplished?  This year has been a particularly challenging year in all aspects of my life.  I realized that in the first half of the year, I thought I knew what I had wanted but I was actually blindly chasing an ideal.  Having come to terms with what I thought I wanted versus what I actually need – I allowed myself to stop.  To re-calibrate my goals, my focus and reconcile the differences between want versus need.

Fall for me, has always been my favorite time of the year.