#WW: ❄️ Seeing Dhamma in Christmas…is that possible?

#WW: ❄️ Seeing Dhamma in Christmas…is that possible?

Wholesome Wednesdays (WW): Bringing you curated positive content on Wednesdays to uplift your hump day.

To our Christian readers and all that celebrate, Merry Christmas! In this season largely celebrated by Christians. Are there Dhamma elements we can take away from this celebration? We have heard stories from friends who are invited to Christmas events only to face attempts at conversion, leaving a bitter taste of Christmas. So can we see Dhamma in this festival? Here are two stories that may make you think different!

1. The role of spirituality and Christmas

2. Can Buddhists celebrate Christmas?

The role of spirituality and Christmas

Cr: Unsplash

What’s going on here & Why we like it

Ajahn Brahm, a Buddhist monk from Australia, shares on spirituality and our occasional obsession with dogma. The notion that we take on labels (e.g. I am a Buddhist from Singapore/Malaysia who follows xxx teacher) prevents us from being expansive in our hearts.

Ajahn Brahm then also shares a unique moment where a reporter scolded Dalai Lama on receiving a skirt from a poor lady. A pretty fascinating response from Dalai Lama that embodies the spirit of Christmas. We have time-stamped the story in the video below.

“You build a circle that grows, grows, and grows. And all those things you have fear of in the past. It vanishes.”

Wise Steps

What views are you holding on to that prevent you from embracing the differences in others?

Check out the video here or below!

Can Buddhists celebrate Christmas?

What’s going on here & why we like it

Heng Xuan, a HOL writer, shares the different ways we can celebrate Christmas as Buddhists. The spirit of generosity expands beyond labels and whatever religions we identify with. December, the month of Christmas, offers Buddhists and Christians alike an opportunity to reflect on a topic dear to both traditions: Giving.

The article shares 3 ways that we can live the spirit of Christmas as Buddhists in the coming 3 days!

“What matters is that we are giving up mind states that cause us to feel negative. We then open ourselves up to giving and love.”

Wise Steps

When was the last time you gave to someone/something in need?

Read the article here.

3 wise dating tips to keep you away from the hell realm of dating

3 wise dating tips to keep you away from the hell realm of dating

TLDR: Single and in your late twenties? Mabel shares her stories of realisation and wisdom from navigating the dating world. From opening the door to your heart to understanding the drawbacks of mundane love, this article explores deeper into struggles of dating in the environment which pushes us to find romantic love.

Being single in your late twenties seems to scream that you are broken and bad. It feels like a problem that needs to be fixed. 

A life devoid of romantic love is often painted to be imperfect and empty. And although I’ve been happily single and mostly unperturbed by narratives like these, my immunity has been waning the older I get. I feel pressure, shame, and anxiety. Dating used to be fun and exciting, but now it feels like a chore.

Dating leaves us feeling vulnerable, afraid and imperfect. 

It is such a courageous thing we do – showing up for complete strangers, opening up to them, and letting them into our lives. No matter how many times I’ve done it, it still scares me. I’m so thankful to have met with nice people and formed genuine connections. Looking back, I’ve made mistakes and probably caused some hurt, but it is also through experiences like these that I learn about myself. 

Here are a few things I’ve learned as a twentysomething navigating the dating scene:

Tip 1: Opening the door to your heart

During the dating process, I noticed a lot of self-sabotaging tendencies that emanate from feeling not good enough. 

I felt the need to have achieved certain things or look a certain way before I am worthy of romantic love. 

I would meet nice guys who show interest, and think to myself: ‘oh, he can’t be interested in me, he’s too good for me’. I would be fearful that they would see my flaws and lose interest.

Using dating apps magnified this feeling of inadequacy. I felt like a two-dimensional, searchable item looking to fit into someone’s dating checklist. 

I had to take on society’s demands and live up to its expectations to feel worthy of love.

These feelings of imperfection and deficiency stemming from a strong sense of self could lead to love prone to impurities and more suffering. We could end up being in relationships that don’t serve us, or find a partner for the wrong reasons. 

Only when we extend loving-kindness to ourselves can we examine love with a neutral mind, and know when to keep trying or when to end things. 

I read renowned Australian monk Ajahn Brahm’s Opening The Door To Your Heart 10 years ago, and I’ve always thought the key message was being kind to others. The story, I realised, was about opening the doors of our hearts to ourselves as well.

You do not have to be perfect, without fault, to give yourself love. If you wait for perfection, it never arrives. We must open the door of our hearts to ourselves, whatever we have done.

Tip 2: Understanding the drawbacks of mundane love

I extended this unreasonable yardstick for worthiness to my partners. After ending things with a few guys, I unwillingly acknowledged that perhaps I’m part of the problem.

The Buddha points out that we suffer due to cravings that arise when we don’t understand ourselves. I unpacked my approach towards dating and saw how easily put off I am by signs of flaws and recognised the ideals and desires I projected onto others.

These are desires not rooted in reality, and I was creating suffering for myself.

Dating apps with their filtering functions and abundance of choice give us the illusion that there is a perfect human being out there.  I loved the idea that I would find someone with instant and perfect compatibility. 

But the truth is there are no relationships with no conflicts, and we will always have to work through inevitable differences.

Conditioned things are impermanent and unsatisfactory. We and our partners, as unenlightened beings, will always have our own sets of defilements which will render the dating process unsatisfactory at times. 

Almost all of us reach dating age with some form of wound or trauma. Perhaps the more space we can allow for the deficiencies of love and the flawed reality of nature, the better chance we’ll have at being good at love. 

Suffering ends when ignorance-based cravings end, not when you find ‘true love’.

Tip 3: Knowing what you want and communicating it

When I started using dating apps, I knew I was looking for a committed relationship with someone who shares similar values. So I would swipe left on guys who were looking for something casual, or guys who ‘don’t know yet’ simply because our goals were not aligned. 

I believe this saved me a lot of time and heartache. During the dating process, I have found it helpful to communicate these goals and needs.

Don’t assume that they will figure it out on their own, or that they should know these things instinctively.

It is worth investigating what we are looking for in a relationship. Are we hoping to end suffering with love? Are we looking for an antidote to boredom? Are we hoping to gain coarse rewards through this relationship such as sexual pleasure, wealth, social status, or fame? Is this kind of relationship sustainable? 

I reflect on these questions quite a bit.

It is when both partners are ethical, of good character, and equal in standard of conduct that they can live together enjoying all the pleasures they desire. (Numbered Discourses 4.53 Living Together). Perhaps we could use this as a guide when dating.

Dating is a skill and something we can learn to be better at through experience.  By practising more qualities of metta (the superior kind of love), we can strive to be one who neither suffers from this dating process nor be the cause of others’ suffering.

Wise Steps:

  • Be respectful and kind, and treat the other person the way you would like to be treated. 
  • If you’re feeling burnt out from dating, take a break, don’t go through the process mindlessly.  Enjoy the beauty of being single.   
  • Reflect on what you’ve learned from previous relationships or dates. Did it teach you something about what you want and don’t want? What are the ideals, desires and expectations that you tend to project onto others?
  • Be gentle with yourself, you’re doing great. 
#WW: 😡’ That really pisses me off ‘- A monk teaches an unhappy woman about happiness

#WW: 😡’ That really pisses me off ‘- A monk teaches an unhappy woman about happiness

Wholesome Wednesdays (WW): Bringing you curated positive content on Wednesdays to uplift your hump day.

The world is smiling and you are in a bad mood…life can just suck that way sometimes. Such situations can make us feel worse especially in a contrasting environment. How can we approach such tough emotions when they arise? Here are two stories on negative mind states

1. Don’t worry, be grumpy

2. Maturity and the way we look at ourselves

Don’t worry, be grumpy

Cr: Unsplash

What’s going on here & Why we like it

Ajahn Brahm, a famous Buddhist monk, shares how he advised one of his followers who was feeling grumpy. He paints an authentic picture of the Buddhist practice…one that acknowledges the imperfect side of things. We all feel unhappy sometimes and what we can do for ourselves is to be kind and mindful. Rather than be perfectly at peace.

“There are many human goings. Many human doings, but very few human beings”

Wise Steps

How often do we create perfect personas of ourselves that shatter upon adversity? Next time, when we encounter pain, give ourselves time to feel and process it. Your licence to be grumpy is here!

Check out the video here or below!

Maturity and the way we look at ourselves

Cr: Unsplash

What’s going on here & why we like it

Yung Pueblo, a famous author, meditator & poet, shares a little reminder for us to not get into self-analysis when we are feeling down. We can’t trust such views of ourselves when we are feeling down as they would paint an inaccurate picture of ourselves! We like it because we often pass the harshest self-criticism when we are down.

“When your mood is heavy and down, suspend all self-analysis. When the mind is inclined toward negativity it will not be able to measure your progress well.”

Wise Steps

Our self-analysis shines best when we have a calm mood. Hence, try to detach away from inner head voices when we are down. Be aware of those inner voices and learn to hear but not engage them till the sun shines again.

#WW: 👩‍👧Can you ever be happy again after your daughter died?

#WW: 👩‍👧Can you ever be happy again after your daughter died?

Wholesome Wednesdays (WW): Bringing you curated positive content on Wednesdays to uplift your hump day.

白发送黑发 (White-haired person sends off black-haired person) is a common taboo subject that we avoid in our culture. However, it happens. Elderly sometimes have to witness the death of their offspring. How do we deal with such situations? Today, in the spirit of ghost month, we explore the topic of death.

1. My daughter died of leukemia. Is it possible to ever be truly happy again?

2. Grief and loss. Here’s how attending a concert shows you the difference.

My daughter died of leukemia. Is it possible to ever be truly happy again?

Thich Nhat Hanh’s shares the answer with the lady who lost her daughter

What’s going on here & Why we like it

A lady asks the late venerable Thich Nhat Hanh how she can be happy in spite of her daughter’s death. Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh compassionately shares on she can move on as a mother. Seeing other ways the departed person can manifest in your life is one way to develop healing and closure. We love how the mother listens intently to venerable and we feel that sorrow and hope for the mother.

“So the old buds who have died, they have not really died. They come again, as life is very strong. Life is stronger than death.”

Wise Steps

Healing from loss is an extremely difficult process that each of us will go through in our lives. By finding answers in nature, we develop the ability to see reminders of the departed one. A cloud never dies.

Check out the video here or below!

Grief and loss. Here’s how attending a concert shows you the difference.

Cr: A concert and death. What’s the relationship?

What’s going on here & why we like it

There is a difference between grief and loss. Ajahn Brahm, a famous monk from Australia, shares stories of death, loss, and how losses can remind us of the present moment. Grief is seeing only what has been taken away from you. The celebration of a life is recognizing all that we were blessed with, and feeling so very grateful. We like this talk because it beautifully captures the essence of life and how we can move on when love ones go in different directions as we journey through life.

“It wasn’t happy, it wasn’t sad. It was spiritual…It was like how I went for concerts, seeing bands…after the encores finished I had to go home. I knew I would never hear that music again…I never focused that the concert was ending. The only thing I ever knew was how wonderful it had been. How inspiring that music was and how fortunate I was to be there.”

Wise Steps

Death reminds us that losses will happen in our lives. Instead of going into loops of loss, we can reflect on the moments of inspiration we gained from that person’s journey in our lives. Reminding ourselves that life is impermanent will also spur us to forgive easily and not let petty arguments get in our way of love and friendship.

Enjoy the talk below! (We have cut it short to the juiciest part! But just listen to the whole thing if you can!)

“I lost my sense of smell.”: Turning to Dhamma when Covid strikes you

“I lost my sense of smell.”: Turning to Dhamma when Covid strikes you

TLDR: Learning to be okay with not feeling okay can help us recover better when an unexpected illness happens

It was during a meal that Celeste, in her 20s, began to feel some slight discomfort. Her throat was dry and her nose was runny after having Tom Yum soup.

At 4 am, Celeste confirmed that her discomfort was not from the Tom Yum but something worse.

Her test result showed she was positive for Covid-19. It was something that she never expected to contract as she had taken many precautions.

Fever and body ache struck her quickly. This shocked her as she assumed that after being fully vaccinated, and keeping a healthy lifestyle, it will pass like a breeze.

That was far from the truth as she entered Day 2 of home recovery.

Rotten food & rotten plans

Snapshot of the food that had no taste due to Covid

Celeste felt that being a swim coach, playing tennis & yoga, coupled with healthy eating would provide a strong trampoline for recovery on Day 2. Covid had other plans installed for her. It was not going away.

“I lost my sense of smell. Everything tasted like rotten food”, she recalled.

Fear arose when she Googled and found that some people stopped eating even after recovery as their sense of smell never recovered fully. They had lost interest in eating as it was no longer enjoyable.

There was also a very real possibility that she may end up in the 0.2% of infected vaccinated patients who died from the disease. 

The fear then morphed into self-blame for falling sick.

“I didn’t realise it was unkind until the anger and fear clouded my mind. It made me afraid of Dukkha (Suffering)”, she recalled.

Her meditation practise helped make her aware of the unnecessary self-criticism and blame she was laying on herself. However, the fear and anger grew in her mind.

Soothing Fear with Dhamma

As the fear paralysed Celeste, she decided to use piano music to calm herself as she lay in bed. However, the mental proliferations filled with fear did not go away.

She then recalled a playlist of talks recommended by her Dhamma friends from her young working adult Dhamma group (DAYWA). Being new to Buddhism, she was unfamiliar with whether it would help but decided to give the playlist a try.

“Be okay that you are not feeling okay”, Ajahn Brahm, the monk on the playlist, advised. This struck her hard.

She was always trying too hard to be healthy. Covid was something beyond her control. Despite being fully vaccinated, she still fell deeply sick. Acknowledging that it is okay to fall sick was a great relief to her heart and mind.

“90% of my worries never came through. I spent so much time worrying about things that never happen”, recalled Celeste as she was recovering.

After the one hour Dhamma talk, Celeste felt at ease and fell into a deep sleep.

Returning to senses

Celeste, having heard numerous mind-soothing episodes of Dhamma talks, was ready to accept a life of no smell. She reflected that she had taken her 5 senses for granted and realised that they did not belong to ‘us’ strictly as we could not command them as we like.

“We don’t own these senses, senses are merely borrowed. Not Mine, not myself.” she reflected.

Celeste was internalising and seeing first-hand what Buddha talked about non-self. We do not control our body and mind as much we would love to. For if our body was fully ours, it wouldn’t lead to dissatisfaction and we would have full control. 

This brought to mind Buddha’s teaching to monks in the following dialogue:

What do you think, monks? Is form (body) permanent or impermanent?”

“Impermanent, sir.”

“But if it’s impermanent, is it suffering or happiness?”

“Suffering, sir.”

“But if it’s impermanent, suffering, and perishable, is it fit to be regarded thus: ‘This is mine, I am this, this is my self’?”

“No, sir.”

As Celeste was coming to peace with her lack of smell senses, it came back to her. She was beginning on her upward path to recovery.

Associating with the kind

As she slowly recovered, she found that body aches and pain remained. However, she avoided the trap of feeling unhappy with her body.

“Wanting things to be perfect feed the monster within you. Pain reminds you that your body is not perfect…and that’s okay”, Celeste shared.

Beyond the Dhamma talks, her loved ones were pivotal in lifting her towards full recovery.

Her in-laws delivered her favourite vegetables that she loved to eat even when the Delta variant was a real threat to their health. Her yoga friends delivered herbal tea and cooked for her.

This difficult period also made her appreciate her husband more (who was also infected and had to be hospitalised). Life and death became very real for her when her husband heart rate dropped drastically which landed him in the hospital as she lay at home infected with Covid.

“These moments made me count my blessings and not take them (loved ones) for granted”,  Celeste recalled.

Life lessons from covid

This episode made Celeste rethink the way she was living her life. She decided to cut down on some overindulgence she was partaking in, such as midnight movies and sleeping late. Maintaining health was a crucial component of her life that she wanted to strengthen. 

She then aspired to dedicate more time and consistency to her meditation practice which tide her over this tough period. She found herself meditating less when times were going good for her and hence, aspires to build a consistent habit of meditating regardless of the times.

“Be patient and be unafraid” she advised those who may face such an unexpected infection.

“For your friends infected with Covid, ask them how you can help them. Delivering food and checking in on them really lifts their spirits”, she encouraged.

In our darkest and lowest times, recollecting the Dhamma is one way to rest our minds at peace. This allows our body and mind to be okay at being not okay, paving the way for deeper healing.

Wise Steps:

  • Create a playlist of your favourite Dhamma talks that you can listen to in times of trouble
  • Every hardship we face is an opportunity for us to turn towards the truths of life or remain in our perceived truths of life

Help us spread more goodness to the world