Wholesome Wednesdays (WW): Bringing you curated positive content on Wednesdays to uplift your hump day.
2 stories for you today!
The week of love is coming up! We take a creative (maybe contrarian) spin this week on sharing a broken love can lead to the Dhamma and how to love our work.
1. How my husband’s affair led me to the Dhamma
2. How to love your work
How my husband’s affair led me to the Dhamma
What’s going on here
Venerable Pema Chodron, a famous Tibetan Nun & author of “When Things Fall Apart“, shares how she became a Buddhist! How something really dark in her life transformed her into a Dhamma practitioner.
Why we like it
We can sometimes think of monastics as people who led comfortable lives and decided to renounce all worldly possessions. However, some come to the Dhamma and monastic life from a deeply traumatic experience. This shows the humanising part of Sangha and an eye-opener to how she dealt with the pain when she was enjoying the heights of her career and life.
“What i was feeling (anger & negativity) was a key to something rather than an obstacle to something.”
When things fall apart, where do we turn to? Do we allow ourselves to feel the pain or numb it away?
School of Life (SOL) makes a video on how we can have a better relationship with our work. The five mins video touches on aspirations and finding meaning in our work. Loving your work, SOL argues, doesn’t start with your work.
Why we like it
With 1 in 4 Singaporeans planning to resign within the next few months, this matter more than ever. This video is easy to digest and makes us think deeper about what we want. It challenges us to drop the expectations of comparison with others’ lives.
” Work cannot fix the deficit of love. We should enjoy work on its own terms”
Are you in a slump? Maybe it is time to slow down and acknowledge where you feel unsatisfied about your work-life. Asking yourself much needed questions about work and career can spark new insights!
This is adapted from Sylvia Bay’s bulletin for Buddhist Fellowship written in March 2020. This is a great reminder for us as we greet each new year. This pandemic throws all the curveballs we could never expect. Here is how we can l
TLDR: These are unprecedented times. The past few months have been very hard for us as the world gradually descends into a Covid-19 pandemic and we watch an accustomed way of life slowly disintegrates.Here is how we can develop faith in fearful times
Every new day seems to bring worse news and we are seized by worry and fear for the safety and well-being of ourselves and our loved ones.
It doesn’t help that nobody knows how long this pandemic will drag on. What more damage will it inflict on society and the economy before it passes? Will it even be over? Will ‘normal’ life as we know it ever return?
Why Must We Not Give In To Fear & Worry?
It brings out the worst in us. In our practice, we must learn to recognise racing thoughts driven by worry and fear.
Recognition, seeing rightly, is a necessary first step to breaking away from being trapped in an endless, vicious cycle of anxiety and panic proliferating frightful thoughts which in turn heighten the overall sense of doom.
Fear and worry are powerful akusala (unwholesome) mental states that can and often do bring out the worst in us. We become selfish and self-centred. We do silly and illogical things. We hoard food, masks, sanitisers, washing detergents, toilet papers! Fear and worry drain our goodness and humanity.
Our capacity for metta, compassion, generosity, empathy and so on dissolve under the deluge of worried and fearful thoughts. Even our noble aspirations to be good Buddhists and to do the right thing for ourselves and for others are terminated in mid-stream.
That is why it is critical that we try our utmost not to give in to fear and worry. It is not easy, but it can be done.
When you see those two mental states arising, take a deep breath and acknowledge their presence.
Call them out by name: “That is fear. That is worry.”
But don’t get defensive.
Don’t blame yourself for their presence.
Just be aware of them and other akusala mental states trailing in their wake: greed, anger, resentment and so on. Then consciously and deliberately choose not to give in to all the mental negativities.
We must not because if we are decent people and especially if we want to be good Buddhists, we will regret any unkind word said and selfish action made while caught in the grip of fear and worry.
What Do We Turn Our Minds To?
Turn our minds to Faith
Instead, turn our minds to faith (saddhā). As Buddhists, our faith is in the Triple Gem: the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.
The stronger our faith, the more we will feel fear and worry dissipate. Faith is so powerful that it can bring up intense joy and immense gratitude.
If you don’t believe, try this: take a deep breath and say slowly, mindfully and with conviction, “My faith in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha will protect me.” Don’t think. Don’t over-analyse. If you do as instructed, you will see faith surge. Joy, gratitude and humility will wash over you.
Like all mental states, faith has to be cultivated. Therefore, set aside quiet time to pay homage to the Triple Gem. More importantly, use that time to reflect on the meaning of the ancient words.
Right reflection is necessary to strengthen faith and protect the kusala (wholesome) in the mind.
We start by recalling the Buddha’s virtues as follows but in a language that we understand and can appreciate: “The Blessed One is an Arahant, perfectly enlightened, accomplished in true knowledge and conduct, fortunate, knower of the world, unsurpassed trainer of persons to be tamed, teacher of devas and humans, the Enlightened One, the Blessed One.”
What stands out here is the fact that the Buddha was the epitome of wisdom (vijjā) and goodness (carana).
He had realised entirely on his own how his mind works and how suffering can cease.
And then out of compassion for all sentient beings, Buddha devoted the rest of his life to helping others to the same intuitive realisation. Buddha was an incredible teacher: ingenious and creative, uplifting and inspiring, with boundless compassion, drive and energy.
He taught Dhamma literally to the end.
As he laid dying beneath the Sal trees in Kusinara, Buddha reminded his students to strive on and to realise Nibbāna for themselves.
Buddha’s life was profoundly inspiring.
In these difficult times, we must remind ourselves to bring out that ‘Buddha’ potential in us and not give in to our darker instincts, namely, greed and anger. We must believe that we too are capable of great wisdom and goodness. We only have to stay committed to the practice and not lose faith.
Reflect on the virtues of the Dhamma as follows: “Well expounded is the Dhamma by the Exalted One, directly visible, immediately effective, calling one to come and see, leading on, to be personally realised by the wise.”
This is a reminder to ourselves to not get caught up in the running commentaries in our heads. Thought constructions are often unhelpful but they can be downright destructive if fuelled by fear and worry.
Instead, live in the present moment or as the Buddha had put it: “sandiṭṭhiko” (visible here and now) and “akāliko” (timeless). Learn to enjoy the NOW.
Be aware of how our mind can stay in the present, without chattering, at least for a while before it drifts off again. Be grateful each time you are aware of this present moment where the mind is quietly watchful.
Treasure this moment in the Dhamma. Feel blessed that with the guidance of a 2500-year old teaching, we too are enjoying this wondrous experience
To recall the virtues of the Sangha is to remind ourselves that we must stay kusala and not willy-nilly stray into akusala. As the first part of the homage recitation goes, “The order of the Exalted One’s disciples is practising well; … is of upright conduct; … has entered the right path; … is practising correctly.”
Indeed, the noblest of Buddha’s disciples were all paragons of virtues. If we profess to be Buddha’s disciples, the least that we can do is to restrain our akusala instincts and to conscientiously cultivate kusala ones.
We learn to speak kindly and gently. In this trying time, where everyone is anxious and agitated, we should not add to another’s pain.
We shall act with consideration. We take (or buy) only what we need for survival and not clear the shelves because we can. We must be giving (cāga). For those of us with means, this is really a chance to cultivate generosity because there are very real and desperate needs out there. If we find our mind resisting to give, tame that stain of miserliness by giving more.
What must we do?
We must be empathetic. Covid-19 obviously does not respect national boundaries. There is no one race or religion immune to Covid-19. The entire human race is in this together.
So we will not point fingers and look for convenient scapegoats. Instead, we should embrace all and help all alike. And finally, we will be grateful for our blessings to be living in a country where we have good people and resources to contain Covid-19 outbreak and save lives.
The fact that we remain hopeful despite the body blows to the economy and complete disruption to our social lives, shows that instinctively we trust the people in the forefront know what they are doing.
We must not add to their burden. Instead, we will be humble and wholly support them. We must think positive, stay optimistic and believe that this pandemic will pass.
May we all emerge from this defining challenge of our time, stronger in our faith, kinder in our words and conduct, and wiser in our thoughts. May your faith in the Triple Gem keep you well and at peace
TLDR: It is okay not to be okay. Being on the constant drive to be perfect can wear you down. Ching Wi recommends taking an incremental approach to generating kind thoughts to yourself and to see the little sparks in the darkest of caves.
Foggy spectacles from wearing masks. Forest fires. Social strife. Long socially-distanced queues for bubble tea. How can we keep calm & happy in a distressed world? A smiley social worker might have an answer.
Ching Wi has been a social worker for years. She helps elderlies people in her day-to-day job. With her joyful ‘hello’ given when we met, it is hard to grasp that she has suffered from depression. For six years.
Her journey into the darkest cave
Perfection. Competition. Ching Wi’s life was previously characterised by these two things. This led to a life of anxiety and self-doubt. She found herself responding to everything with anger.
Everything that she and others did previously needed to be up to her standard. She mentioned, her characteristic is like the boss that you don’t want to work with. It is fierce and scary.
These loads of negative emotions eventually piled up inside her heart. The three factors of depression: biological, physical and social aspects are mixed up. Anxiety and depression hit hard.
In a blink of an eye, she realised that everything becomes heavier, the negative thoughts towards herself and the world trapped her inside a dark cave.
In such darkness, it felt impossible to see any light.
Seeing the flicker of light
Upon seeing the sparks, Ching Wi placed great effort in developing mindfulness, taking refuge in the Triple Gem, trying to change for the better from her old version. Buddha’s teaching mentioned that hatred can’t be overcome by anger. Hatred can only be overcome by love. This is an eternal rule.
She recalled, ‘It is a very difficult process of healing. Changing from the 1.0 version to 2.0 is not easy. There are processes of 1.1, 1.2, 1.3,… etc. It is and will be a roller coaster ride of ups and downs.’ However, having trusted friends, families and the courage to believe in the power of truth in the triple gem is really helpful for the recovery process.
It can be very scary to experience depression and she found courage from “hiding” in the power Triple Gem’s truth. When she could not trust herself, she knew she could trust the Triple Gem, especially in stopping her suicidal thoughts. At moments when the suffering got really unbearable, she would imagine taking out all the negative emotions and believe in the Triple Gem, the teaching about the truth of life.
In times where she lacked confidence, she sought comfort in the Buddha’s compassion and practiced the Buddha’s teaching of loving-kindness. Even if she could not generate loving-kindness for herself yet, she kept trying. She found it easier to wish others well and at peace so she kept doing it. Slowly, the spark of positivity helps to calm her mind and she begins to feel kindness for herself too.
‘Take time to slow down every process. Be mindful of everything and start wishing others and yourself to have a blissful mind.‘ The advice she has taken to heart whenever she senses the darkness creeping in. Seeing how Ching Wi struggled and going through the hardest moment, was there any advice she had for others facing dark times?
She smiled, ‘learn to be kind to yourself, you too can see light’.
Helping others see light
“Learning to be kind and accept yourself, and being honest with yourself is very important to get out of suffering. Remind yourself that you too deserve a happier mental state, and depression is not a personal failure.” She advised.
Also, it is always better than letting the negative thoughts repeat over and over again. As it could be destructive to your mind.” She continued.
“But….what if you can’t do that?” I asked.
“Keep trying different ways to solve problems’. Ching Wi reckoned that it is very hard to move through hard times if our mind is not open, stuck in cycles of suffering.
Ask yourself: ‘Why am I so resistant to making myself peaceful and free from destructive thoughts?”
She suggested being open with your trusted people around you. It can be friends or family, or someone that you are comfortable to talk with. ‘Sometimes, they see our blind spot and help us to find confidence in ourselves. And could also bring up a new perspective that offers courage too.’
Even though it is not an easy journey to embark on with, it will be rewarding in the end.’ She grinned.
Lighting a candle in the darkest cave
“Lighting a candle in the darkest cave is not an easy task to do. However, it offers warmth to the cave. You may not still see the whole cave, but as the flame lights up, you will feel comforted and help to jumpstart your process of recovering.” She explained.
“As the candle continues to glow, the surroundings (mind space) will affect how bright will the candle be. If we could slow down and calm our thoughts, the warmth will brighten up the cave. A cave with even walls will enhance and reflect more light. Conversely, if the surroundings are jagged and wavey (full of worries), the glow will be shaky and unfocused. So pay attention too to the environment for the flame to continue shining.’ She cautioned.
Ching Wi calmly mentioned that even if you can’t see the full cave with your candle. Generate gratitude for that little flame, as it has at least helped you kickstart your process of recovery. To gain strength to face the world. To offer an opportunity to be happy again.
May you be inspired by this writing to light your own candle in tough times and offer strength to others.
Gratitude goes a long way. To both ourselves and others, it is a great daily practice!
Seeking help never hurts! From professionals to friends to family, finding that support helps guides you through the storms of life.
Need help? It is one call away
SOS 24-hour Hotline: 1800-221-4444
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019