The Buddhist Path to Simplicity – Feldman

There are many books that look at applying the philosophy of Buddhism to everyday life, but this one by Christina Feldman is my favourite.

Feldman does a great job of intertwining the basic Buddhist principles in with a mix of  insightful stories, anecdotes and quotes to create a book about simplicity that is written how it is preached. She also creates some of her own powerful metaphors, such as the idea that through “inner-terrorism” we use fear to destabilise our own mind; using the stories we tell ourselves to create inner anguish and suffering.

The Buddhist Path to Simplicity is a must read!

Reading Notes:

  • Meditation (Buddhism in general) is not advocating an emotional lobotomy, rather seeking to separate the emotions we do feel from the baggage of past convictions, associations, fears and insecurities.
  • The stories we tell ourselves dictate our thoughts. Our thoughts dictate our emotions. Our emotions ARE our life experience.
  • Mindfulness is stripping away the painful associations we store about the world around us and simply viewing it as it is without bias.
  • We tell ourselves stories about what “should be” which in contrast to “what is” cause us pain and suffering.
  • There are thousands of external stimuli and events that impact our lives every single day, causing our emotional states to fluctuate. We have two choices when designing a mindset with which we want to view them. 1) We can view all these events as being external and “happening to us”, that they are out of our control and cause the fluctuations in our emotional state (happiness, sadness, joy, suffering). 2) We can alternatively choose to separate the external event from the fluctuating emotional state; the external event starts and ends outside of us, while our emotional state starts and ends within our mind. This disarms the external events from fluctuating our emotional state; the only thing that fluctuates our emotional state is our own mind. #stoicbuddha
  • Left unrestrained our fickle mind knows no limit. Left unrestrained our insatiable desires know no limit.

Quotes:

  • “Spiritual traditions throughout history remind us that we can live with joyous simplicity, a life where our minds is our friend, our hearts are loving; where we are at home in our body and at peace with each changing moment of life.”
  • “Outer change carries no guarantee of inner change.”
  • “We discover happiness through making peace with ourselves and the circumstances of our lives, not through trying to escape form the, nor through living in the fantasies about the future.”
  • “As the graffiti on the bridge tells us, ‘We are not in a traffic jam, we are the traffic jam.'”
  • “We are all living in the same world experiencing sounds, sights tastes, smells feelings and thoughts. We share the same story of birth, ageing, sickness and death. We all have the capacity for delight and distress, great compassion and great struggle. In the universal story none of us will remain untouched by loss, sadness, and pain, and we will all be touched by moments of simple joy and gladness – we will all laugh and we will all weep. It is a story of change and unpredictability and it will not always be under our control. This is the story of life.”
  • “Again we learn the gap between ‘what is’ and ‘what should be’ is an ocean of distress, disappointment and frustration.”
  • “To each moment we bring past memories, hopes, fears, and preferences, and the world reflects back to us the state of our minds.”
  • “Someone offends us. The next day we encounter them again. No sooner do we set eyes upon them that we find ourselves replaying our resentment, the story of yesterday, at the forefront of our mind. Can we see that person without the veils of the story? Do we find ourselves already avoiding, rejecting, or judging? Can we learn to breathe out, to let go of the story, and find generosity to be wholeheartedly present with that person.”
  • “Simplicity is not a passive, a benign detachment from the turbulence of life; it is a way of placing our finger upon the pulse of our life and discovering the ways of liberation.”
  • Boredom has come to be regarded as one of our greatest enemies and we flee from it by generating endless complexity and busyness. Boredom may be no more than a surrender of sensitivity, yet, rather than turning our hearts and minds to rediscover that lost sensitivity, we thirst for even more exciting experiences, drama, and intensity.”
  • “When alienated from inner vitality we mistake intensity for wakefulness.”
  • “Ask ourselves, ‘What is truly lacking in this moment?'”
  • “We drive ourselves into deep states of sorrow and anxiety in our quest for gratification and happiness. Driven by what the Buddha described as the two deepest fears of a human being: the fear of having nothing, and the fear of being no-one, we try to grasp the ungraspable, preserve the changing, secure the unpredictable and guarantee the unknowable.”
  • “As we look more deeply we should ask: do any of these hold the power to cause us to be lost in sorry, pain, or confusion? Or is it the movements of our minds that dismiss, judge, reject, and avoid, which cause the greatest pain and sorrow?”
  • “Two levels of sorrow are experiences; one in the actual experience and one in the reactions and story about it.”
  • “Calm simplicity does not depend upon the annihilation or control of the unpleasant experience but is born of our willingness to let go of the layers of our stories and fears.”
  • “Renunciation in not the territory of saints or ascetics but the territory of each one of us who treasures freedom.”
  • “Lost in our habitual reactions we build up inner storms of regret that feature the endless monologues of ‘if only’ and ‘should’.”
  • “Restraint means having the willingness to acknowledge that we create both our mind and the world through the manner in which we greet the arising of these feelings in the present.”
  • “Being awake to life means embracing the reality that moral certainties are often elusive. Definitive moments of right and wrong are superseded by many more moments where we simply do not know. Moral certainty is possessed by those who have not looked deeply into the countless ambiguities of human life.”
  • “In our thoughts we meet the inner terrorist with its burden of judgement and blame, the endless replaying of the past and the rehearsals of the future.”
  • “Calm simplicity in the world of our mind is discovered through the wisdom of being able to strip away the excess layers of association, story, and comparison with which we surround the simplest perception.”
  • “If we were to drop a jewel in a muddy pond, you would be unlikely to find it by taking a stick and frantically stirring it around. All you would achieve would be to make the water cloudy. To find your jewel it would be more effective to allow the water to settle, to look closely, and carefully explore the pond systematically.”
  • “We obsess far more about the difficult people in our lives, analysing their imperfections, replaying the historical and familiar story of resentment, than we think about the people we love and enjoy.”
  • “The taste of deep attention, peace, and stillness, is the taste of happiness.”
  • “‘This is sadness, grief, anger, jealousy’ is very different way of appreciating our experience than ‘I am sad, bereft, angry, jealous.”
  • “Fearlessness does not mean the fear never arises, but it entails our willingness to turn towards it, understand it, and find within it the simplicity of being present.”
  • A young boy once asked his mother, ‘What would you do if you imagined you were surrounded by a pack of hungry tigers with no one to save you?’ His mother answered, ‘I don’t know. What would you do?’ He answered, ‘I’d stop pretending.’ Without self-confidence or inner trust we imagine our tigers to be more solid and powerful than they actually are. We invest them with the authority to define the quality of our inner environment and our responses.”
  • “It is easy to exaggerate and stretch the truth in order to inflate our own sense of self-important. It is not always easy to find the wisdom and humility to say, ‘I don’t know'”
  • “Mindfulness is a shortcut to happiness.”
  • “Everything is interdependent. Life reacts with itself.”
  • “If we pursue awakening, it retreats from us. If we demand enlightenment, it hides. If we dismiss awakening, we dismiss ourselves. All that we can do is make ourselves enlightenment-prone.”
  • “We are Buddhas with amnesia, learning to remember ourselves.”
  • “Discovering the sacred spaced of stillness, we are encouraged to approach life in a sacred way.”
  • “The essence of all spiritual teaching encourages us to turn towards our life and discover a freedom that leans upon nothing and embraces everything.”

sebastiankade

Sebastian Kade, Founder of Sumry and Author of Living Happiness, is a software designer and full-stack engineer. He writes thought-provoking articles every now and then on sebastiankade.com

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