Sunday, December 4, 2016

Corporate Mindfulness: Worker Bees Unite

Image result for worker bee

The purpose of seeing clearly is to see clearly. When we do that, we act skillfully, which means we cause less suffering. One clear act can echo endlessly, inspiring others to see and act with wisdom.

It's no news that corporations have begun to adopt mindfulness into their training and professional development/health program. This can be a great thing if mindfulness is being "adopted"; but if it is being "appropriated," then that is another story entirely.

The iconoclast in me suspects it's the latter case. Despite what Mitt Romney says, businesses are not people. They are institutions with one common goal--success, usually monetary. While different businesses have different missions, their goals usually equate to money, power, or influence. None of these inherently have workers in mind; in fact, the well-being of employees is only helpful to a business inasmuch as it impacts the company's success.

This means that--more likely than not--corporate mindfulness and health programs' ultimate goal is to make better employees. After all, the healthier (mentally, emotionally, and physically) employees are, the more productive they become.

Stated in direct, albeit admittedly cynical, terms:
America's embrace of mindfulness is to make Americans better worker bees. 
This should come as no surprise. When a country elects a businessman with no political experience whatsoever into the highest executive office, that country has thoroughly digested corporate values.

But I digress. Mindfulness is not supposed to make you a better, more productive person or worker; it's goal, if it can be said to have one, is to wake people up for the sake of waking up. Living, acting, and speaking with clarity of mind is its own goal. I'm reminded of a Quaker proverb: "There is no way to peace. Peace is the way."

Similarly, mindfulness shouldn't be treated as yet another means to an ends. When it is, practitioners should be extremely wary. Like Buddhism itself, mindfulness should be treated as an ends unto itself, not a mental workout program so that we can gather more honey.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Dharma talks for the holidays

Wherever You Go

We don't need to go anywhere to wake up. We bring awakening with us wherever we go; it's our true, original nature. In fact, "here" is the only place where awakening can manifest.

Introduction and sound engineering by Tom Eunsahn Gartland.

Giving Endless Thanks

Awakening means realizing the fundamental interconnectedness of reality, how we and all beings are connected. When this happens, we see how everything in this world sustains us. This is the highest form of gratitude.

Introduction and sound engineering by Tom Eunsahn Gartland.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Giving Thanks?

Image result for vegan symbol

I don't understand Thanksgiving; I never have. Besides the 43,000,000 turkeys senselessly slaughtered for Thanksgiving centerpieces, the entire holiday feels slightly schizophrenic to me.

In America, we stuff ourselves with food until we're fit to vomit, and in some way this is supposed to be an acknowledgement of all of the ways that we have been blessed? Wouldn't fasting be more of an effective reminder?

But feasting sells better than fasting.

Through the Buddha's teachings, we examine all of the mindless habits that we indulge in every day--wallowing in emotions, lost in thought, eating voraciously, acting and speaking unskillfully. This same critical analysis applies to the traditions that we engage in. Thanksgiving symbolizes both the decadent overindulgence of Western culture--its fervent addiction to consumption, literally--and humans' intentional self-ignorance.

Thanksgiving represents the ultimate Western irony. Gratitude means exercising humility and reflecting on all of the ways that the world--not just our family, community, and nation--nourishes us. It means to acknowledge how all beings contribute to our existence, and as a result, a blossoming of compassion emerges in our hearts for those beings we ordinarily harm through our mindlessness.

Yet, toxic American culture teaches us the exact opposite--that the way to express gratitude is through excess, exploitation, and gross over-consumption. All of which are the exact opposite of gratitude, hence the irony.

When we embody awareness, we cannot help but see that Thanksgiving is yet another symptom of a distressed culture, one that causes harm to countless beings.

Instead of slaughter and decadence, true thanksgiving encourages a change in our lifestyle for the benefit of all beings. Give thanks every day, not just the last Thursday in November.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

This Too - Dharma Talk

The entire world is the awakened body of all Buddhas; all we have to do is open ourselves to this fact. We can do this by accepting everything we encounter as an expression of awakening.

Introduction and sound engineering by Tom Eunsahn Gartland.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

STOP! - Dharma talk

Meditation and mindfulness are not means to waking up; they are expressions of it. We are awake when we pay attention. Waking up means to stop trying to get something from life--from this moment--and just accept here and now fully, unconditionally.

Introduction and sound engineering by Tom Eunsahn Gartland.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Living the Question - Dharma talk

A life of contemplation is one that asks questions, one that dwells in the space that questions open. Asking "Who am I?" is central to Zen, not in pursuit of a verbal or conceptual answer; but the very asking--the embracing of the non-conceptual--is itself being awake.

Introduction and sound engineering by Tom Eunsahn Gartland.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Divisions can be...Divisive

Not all divisions are bad. When a doctor performs surgery to remove a tumor or some other foreign object, her ability to differentiate healthy tissue from her target is paramount. After all, why remove more tissue (or organs or limbs) than necessary?

That is an example where divisions can be healthy. However, as we see in the current U.S. political climate, division can be dangerous and destructive. I can't remember a Presidential election that wasn't pressing, but the stakes for this current one seems exceptionally high. Divisions contribute to this.

When we look at groups of people through an "us vs. them" lens, we often feel threatened or antagonistic. Fellow humans become them who want to take our property or opportunities. When we view refugees fleeing the destruction of war as terrorists, we sink to our lowest capacity, that of frightened animals. There's a difference between caution and callousness, between wariness and hatred.

America has a massive racial and discrimination problem. I don't think that repairing our racially divided past will come from eliminating our differences, whatever that would look like (a monochrome American culture?). Besides, who would want that?

Rather, it's only by recognizing our differences, while simultaneously viewing our fellow men and women as brothers and sisters, that we can hope to forge a new future for all Americans. Of course the experience of black Americans is different from mine as a white American. The same can be said about any subcategory of America--be it based on gender, sexuality, religion, and so on.

I don't need to erase my culture or anyone else's in order to fight for equality. I find that's it more helpful to look at the plight of marginalized Americans this way:

How can we as Americans fight for equality for our black, transgender, homosexual, female, Latino, Muslim...brothers and sisters?

This perspective recognizes differences (my foot is not my arm and my heart is not my kidney) without allowing those differences to divide. That's the goal--and in my opinion, the true function--of any spiritual tradition, especially Buddhism.