I like fall (this is going somewhere of substance, I swear). It just doesn’t expect as much from you as spring and summer. Spring’s weather is too unpredictable, like that friend with big plans, but only follows through 10% of the time. You’re about to walk out the door when that flake Spring calls. “Dude, my brother in-law couldn’t get the tickets.” Then Summer is like that cool friend who is ALWAYS doing something super fun, but it’s exhausting and expensive to hang out with them. Fall doesn’t care if you want to lay on the couch in your pajamas until 3 in the afternoon. “Let’s put on a cozy sweater, eat caramel apples and watch something scary!” says Fall.
What is always weird for me though is how gently shocking the seasons are. When it’s winter and the trees have no leaves and the grass is dead or snow-covered, it’s as if I can’t remember what they looked like when green and full of life. Obviously, I know what that looks like, but it’s like the other memories paste over the incidental things like seasons. When they get here, it’s like, “Oh, right. Of course that’s how vivid the grass is after a storm.”
That, “Oh right,” feeling was the same one I had while researching this week’s post. I wanted to work in this story (I forgot why) I read years ago in a book called, The Zen of Eating and I wanted to make sure I remembered it correctly. The story was this guy living a in cave and one day he came home to find all these demons. So he was like, “What the hell? This is my cave/house! Get out!” A few left, but most didn’t. He tried everything to get them out- getting physical with them, yelling at them, praying them away. Nothing worked. Finally he said, “Okay, jerks, if you aren’t going to go, I guess we’re just going to have to find a way to live together.” It was then that the demons faded away.
That book changed my life. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I still ate super bad and gained about 3 billion pounds (approximately). But it introduced me to the concept of mindfulness. It was so easy that I thought, “Why the hell not?” As I remember it described in the book, mindfulness is being present in a moment, paying attention to your breathing, hearing the noises and feeling the sensations that surround you for just a moment. That’s it. Try it. I’ll wait….
You’re instantly calmer and your head is clearer, right? So anyway, as I was doing my hard-hitting research (a Google search) trying to find this story, I realized that I haven’t been practicing mindfulness nor keeping in mind any other Buddhist teachings. I’m not a Buddhist, I don’t pretend to be and I’m not even that smart, but I do know that when I remember to practice mindfulness and keep in mind the 4 Noble Truths and the Eight Fold Path to the best of my ability, that my life goes smoother. I’m not going to recount all of their principles here, because if you are interested, there are about 8 millions (approximately) books and documentaries out there and even a movie with Keanu Reeves, Chris Isaak and Bridgette Fonda (it was the 90’s, she was in everything, it was in the Constitution). But here is my uneducated interpretation of a few things.
The first noble truth in Buddhism is that there is suffering. As shitty as that sounds, it kind of nice that someone acknowledges that yep, life is pretty sucky sometimes instead of seeing all these internet posts attempting to convince us that everyone else’s life is ten thousand times more perfect then yours will ever be and making you feel bad about feeling bad. The second is that the suffering is caused by attachments and clinging. I always add “expectations” in there, too. Feelings and situations are constantly changing, but we expect them to stay the same forever or a certain outcome that we rarely get. The way out of the suffering is the 8 fold path. It’s not like the 12 steps of AA or that I will need when Whole Foods stops selling caramel apples in a couple of weeks. Once you know about the 8 fold path, you’re on it and you just follow the guidelines as best you can all at once. You can follow this link if you want more info, but the gist of it is, don’t be a jerk, which is the basic principle of most religions. This life can be hard and we should all try and find something non-destructive that eases our way a little.
Here’s a fun song that has nothing to do with Buddhism, but it sounds kind of Indian/Asian and I like it.